Report: Maine 23rd most obese state in US, fattest in New England

By Jackie Farwell, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 20, 2013, at 3:14 p.m.

Maine is the 23rd most obese state in the country, according to a new national report.

The annual “F as in Fat” report, conducted by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that 28.4 percent of Maine adults were obese in 2012. That showing earned Maine the title of fattest state in New England, followed by New Hampshire at 27th nationally; Rhode Island, 36th; Connecticut, 39th; Vermont, 46th; and Massachusetts, 49th.

Maine moved up two spots from the previous year, when the state tied with North Dakota at 25th in the nation with an adult obesity rate of 27.8 percent.

In 1995, 14.3 percent of Mainers were obese, half the number today.

Nationally and in Maine, adult obesity rates have begun to level off. After three decades of increases, rates held steady over the past year in every state except third-ranked Arkansas, according to the report.

“While stable rates of adult obesity may signal prevention efforts are starting to yield some results, the rates remain extremely high,” Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health, said in a news release announcing the report. “Even if the nation holds steady at the current rates, Baby Boomers — who are aging into obesity-related illnesses — and the rapidly rising numbers of extremely obese Americans are already translating into a cost crisis for the healthcare system and Medicare.”

The 20 states with the highest adult obesity rates were all in the South and Midwest. After eight years tipping the scale at No. 1, Mississippi was joined by Louisiana in the top spot, with both states at a rate of 34.7 percent. Arkansas wasn’t far behind at 34.6 percent.

Colorado was the thinnest state at 20.5 percent.

Adults are considered obese if their body mass index, a body fat calculation based on individual weight and height, totals 30 or higher. A body mass index of 25 or higher is considered overweight.

With overweight residents added to the mix, nearly two-thirds of Maine’s population needs to shed extra pounds, the report found.

Last year’s report predicted that more than half of all adults in the state will be obese by 2030 if Mainers continue packing on weight at current rates.

Nationally, obesity rates varied by age. Rates among Baby Boomers topped 30 percent in most states, including Maine. The state had one of the lowest obesity rates, however, among 10- to 17-year-olds at 12.5 percent, ranking Maine 42nd.

Men’s obesity rates have climbed faster than women’s over the last decade. Maine’s obesity rate was 30.2 percent for men and 26.6 percent for women.

Rates of “extreme” obesity also have risen dramatically. The number of adult Americans with a

body mass index of 40 or higher has grown in the past 30 years from 1.4 percent to 6.3 percent, a 350 percent increase, according to the report.

Obesity rates were higher nationally among people with low-incomes and less education.

The report highlighted several policies in Maine aimed at reducing obesity, including requiring schools to provide physical activity or recess during the day; instituting body mass index screenings for students; enacting nutritional standards for foods sold outside the school meal program, such as at vending machines and bake sales; establishing farm-to-school food programs; and charging sales tax on soda.

The report by the Trust for America’s Health, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in New Jersey is based on data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC surveys more than 400,000 adults about their health each year.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/08/20/health/report-maine-23rd-most-obese-state-fattest-in-new-england/ printed on October 2, 2014