August 23, 2005

U.S. obesity rates on rise-report

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans are getting fatter in
every state, with the exception of Oregon, and those living in
the southeast are the most likely to be obese, according to a
report issued on Tuesday.

Mississippi had the highest rate of obesity, with 29.5
percent of adults classified as obese in 2004. In Colorado, the
slimmest state, just 16 percent of adults are obese, the Trust
for America's Health found.

Oregon's rate of 21 percent was unchanged.

"We have a crisis of poor nutrition and physical inactivity
in the U.S. and it's time we dealt with it," said Shelley
Hearne, executive director of the group.

An estimated 119 million Americans, or 64.5 percent, of
adults are either overweight or obese and the rate has been
rising steadily every year. The percentage of obese adults rose
from 23.7 percent in 2003 to 24.5 percent in 2004.

More than 25 percent of adults in 10 states are obese,
including in Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Louisiana,
Tennessee, Texas, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and South
Carolina, the survey found.

Experts agree the problem is difficult to solve. Americans
are surrounded by rich and tasty food, do not need to exercise
as part of daily life and have many sedentary pursuits such as
watching television and using the computer.

The nonprofit group's report said federal obesity programs
are not yet extensive enough and found there are not enough
local policies addressing community design issues, like
sidewalks and suburban sprawl.

And school meal programs focus on getting the maximum
calories into children, as opposed to balanced nutrition, the
report found.


Another report released on Tuesday offered one possible
reason why more Americans are obese.

Dr. Bryn Austin of Children's Hospital Boston and
colleagues found that fast-food restaurants in Chicago cluster
themselves within a short walking distance of schools.

Writing in the American Journal of Public Health, the
researchers found the nearest fast-food restaurant was 0.3
miles away from half the city's schools, or just over a
5-minute walk. Seventy-eight percent of schools had at least
one fast-food restaurant within half a mile (just under 1 km).

"Our cities are saturated with fast-food purveyors. Now we
are finding that the concentration of fast food is even worse
in school neighborhoods," Austin said in a statement.

"This means that five days a week, we are sending our
schoolchildren into environments where there is an abundance of
high-calorie, low-nutritional-quality, inexpensive food."

In the same journal, Kristen Harrison of the University of
Illinois and colleagues reported that convenience or fast foods
and sweets made up 83 percent of foods advertised during
children's television programming.

But a report involving 3,000 girls at 24 schools found some
good news.

Dr. Russ Pate of the University of South Carolina and
colleagues found a female-focused physical-education program
using dance, martial arts and aerobics helped girls become more

They found that 45 percent of the girls who took physical
education in schools using the Lifestyle Education for Activity
Program, or LEAP, reported 30 minutes or more of physical
activity a day, compared to 36 percent of girls at schools not
using the program.