Sixteen U.S. states now have obesity rates of at least 35 percent – more than ever before, new maps reveal.
More than one-third of adults in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia were dangerously overweight in 2020, according to the data released on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This is nearly double the nine states in 2018 that saw obesity prevalence at 35 percent or higher.
Colorado fared the best with an obesity rate of 24.2 percent while Mississippi had the worst rate at 39.7 percent.
Racial and ethnic disparities still persist with three times as many states having at least 35 percent of overweight Hispanic residents compared to overweight whites – and five times as many states with at least 35 percent of overweight black residents.
In the annual report, the researchers warn that obesity can worsens outcomes from COVID-19, increasing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and even death.
A new CDC map found that 16 states including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia have adult obesity rates of at least 35% (above)
Data came from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which is a survey conducted via telephone by the CDC and state health departments.
The CDC report revealed obesity rates among adults increased as their level of education decreased.
Adults without a high school degree had an obesity rate of 38.8 percent in comparison to 34 percent of adults with a high school degree, 34.1 percent of adults with some college and 25 percent of college graduates.
Discrepancies were also apparent among races.
Just seven states had an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or higher among white adults.
By comparison, 22 states had the same obesity prevalence among Hispanic adults and 35 states has a black population of which at least one-third were obese.
Asians were the least likely ethnic group to report high rates of obesity. Of the 35 states with sufficient data, 33 reported rates of under 20 percent.
The remaining two – South Carolina and Alaska – reported rates of 23.7 percent and 25.5 percent, respectively.
Twenty-one states had a Hispanic population with more than one-third of obese adults (above), three times the number of white states
Thirty-five states had a black population with more than one-third of obese adults (above), five times the number of white states
Researchers also found that middle-aged adults were about twice as likely to be dangerously overweight as young adults.
Those between ages 18 and 24 had the lowest obesity rate at 19.5 percent while the age 45 to 54 group had the highest rate at 38.1 percent.
Disparities were also seen between regions of the US.
The Midwest and the South were tied as the regions highest rate of adult obesity at 34.1 percent, each.
Meanwhile the West and the Northeast sat at 29.3 percent and 28 percent, respectively.
Obesity is known as a risk factor for several chronic health conditions including type 2 diabetes, strokes, heart attack and even certain types of cancer.
Just seven states had an obesity prevalence of 35% or higher among white adults.
Asians were the least likely ethnic group to report high rates of obesity. Of the 35 states with sufficient data, 33 reported rates of under 20% (above)
However, adults with obesity are also an increased risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19, including severe cases, hospitalization and death.
A study of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, found that obese people were twice as likely to be hospitalized compared with the state population.
This means that obese people diagnosed with COVID-19 could put an even further strain on already overwhelmed hospitals.
Additionally, a recent study from the University of Michigan School of Public Health found that obese adults who become infected with the flu are not only at a greater risk of severe complications, but remain contagious longer.
This means that obesity is tied to an increased risk of flu transmission. With 75 percent of U.S. adults predicted to be overweight or obese by 2030, this could result in a loss of thousands more more lives to the flu, or the coronavirus.
Although it is unclear why obese adults are more contagious, scientists believe it may be that that obesity changes the body’s immune response and leads to chronic inflammation.
‘To change the current course of obesity will take a sustained, comprehensive effort from all parts of society,’ the CDC authors wrote.
‘We will need to acknowledge existing health disparities and health inequities and address the social determinants of health such as poverty and lack of health care access if we are to ensure health equity.
‘These maps help by showing where we need to focus efforts to prevent obesity and to support individuals with this disease.’