Health officials, school leaders, politicians and families continue to battle the nation’s obesity epidemic. But thus far, they appear to be losing. The U.S. obesity rate has doubled since the 1980s, and today obesity is the second leading cause of premature death in the country.
Most Americans today carry excessive weight: Some 35% of U.S. adults could be classified as overweight, and about 30% more are obese.
An elevated weight can pose harmful risks to the body. Obesity is clearly and directly correlated with some of the most serious health outcomes, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.
A preponderance of medical evidence suggests that obesity — and even being overweight — can shave years off a person’s lifespan. One National Institute of Health study found that life expectancy for an obese person is on average 14 years shorter than it is for someone with a healthier body mass.
While much remains unknown, doctors generally understand the underlying causes of obesity to be poor diet, a lack of sufficient exercise, certain genes, and environmental factors. In the United States, those factors vary substantially from one part of the country to the next, so much so that the obesity rates of two states can differ by 15 percentage points.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 2016 obesity rates in all 50 states, as calculated by the Centers for Disease Control. States in the South, where nine of the 10 steepest rates appeared, have higher obesity rates than the rest of the country. Low obesity rates can be found across the country — especially in the Rocky Mountains region and the Northeast and on the West Coast.