July 28, 2008

Weight of the State


Oklahoma 8th in the nation in obesity; 28.8% of Oklahomans are obese

Too many chicken-fried steaks and not enough exercise.

Apparently, that prescription has landed Oklahoma with the eighth- highest obesity rate in the nation, with 28.8 percent of its population considered obese.

But the state isn't alone in that. The whole nation has gotten fatter.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its most recent data on the nation's obesity, and, as usual, Oklahoma doesn't fare well.

"Once again, we have a diet high in fat and we have a diet that is what they call the 'Southern diet,' " said Adeline Yerkes, chief of the chronic disease division of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Typically, the Southern diet refers to one filled with fried, fatty foods, such as fried okra or chicken-fried anything.

"Combine that with low activity levels and you just aggravate the obesity epidemic for this state," she said.

Obesity is determined by body mass index, which measures an individual's amount of body fat based on height and weight.

Over the last 20 years, obesity has become a chronic condition among Americans.

In Oklahoma, less than 10 percent of the state's population was considered obese in 1988. By 2005, the prevalence of obesity in the state had climbed to between 25 percent and 29 percent of the population, the CDC said.

Colorado has the lowest rate at 19.3 percent, and is the only state with less than 20 percent of its population considered obese.

Some may think the state's obesity rate is unimportant. But its costs reach beyond health implications, Yerkes said.

"It's costly in lives, productivity and the economy," she said.

Obesity puts people at increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, blindness and limb amputations. Colorectal cancer is the second most prevalent cancer in men and women, and there is an association between it and obesity, Yerkes said.

"It's still that whole thing that obesity puts you at risk for chronic disease consequences," she said.

Oklahomans need more sidewalks and walking trails and better access to fresh fruit and vegetables through events such as farmers markets, Yerkes said.

"Oklahoma is beginning to make a change," she said.

Recent state data shows a slight increase in Oklahomans' physical activity and the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

"It's not enough to say it's statistically significant," she said, "but we need to keep these baby steps moving."

Kim Archer 581-8315

[email protected]

Originally published by KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer.

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