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Obesity rates top 30% in record number of states (but not Minnesota)

A record number of states — 20 — had adult obesity rates that topped 30 percent in 2013, according to a report released Thursday by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Minnesota is not among those states. Not yet, at least.

Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For although we had the 11th lowest adult obesity rate in the nation in 2013 — 25.5 percent — that number is statistically unchanged from 2012 and up from 22.6 percent in 2004.

It’s also more than double what it was in 1990: 10.3 percent. That’s not a healthful trajectory.

Still, the good news is that we weren’t among the six states whose obesity rates significantly increased during the past year (Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee and Wyoming).

And we’re still leaner, so to speak, than our immediate neighbors, Wisconsin (whose rate was 29.8 percent in 2013), South Dakota (29.9 percent), North Dakota (31.0 percent) and Iowa (31.3 percent).

On the other hand, we’re nowhere near as lean as the state with the lowest obesity rate, Colorado (21.3 percent).

FYI: Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or greater.

Differences and disparities

Here are some other key findings from the report:

  • The climb in the U.S. obesity rate has slowed down in recent years. In 2005, all but one state saw a rise in their rate. This year, as already noted, only six did. However, two states — Mississippi and West Virginia — now have adult obesity rates that top 35 percent.
  • All 10 states with the highest rates are in the South or Midwest.
  • Among generations, baby boomers (people 45 to 64 years old) have the highest obesity rates. More than 35 percent of baby boomers in 17 states and more than 30 percent in 41 states are obese. Here in Minnesota, the obesity rate among baby boomers is 30.2 percent.
  • Obesity rates are higher among blacks than among whites or Latinos. In 41 states, more than 30 percent of blacks are obese. That compares to 23 states for Latinos and 10 states for whites. In Minnesota, slightly more Latinos (30.5 percent) are obese than blacks (29.8 percent), while the rate for whites is somewhat lower (25.5 percent).
  • Obesity rates also vary by income. Nationally, a third of adults who earn less than $15,000 a year are obese compared with a quarter of those who earn at least $50,000 annually.
  • More than 6 percent of American adults are severely obese (a BMI of 40 or more). That percentage has quadrupled during the past 30 years.
Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


The report makes several recommendations for preventing obesity and reversing these statistics, including urging policymakers to make it easier for people to access affordable healthful foods, be physically active, and learn about nutrition and exercise (in ways that are both culturally sensitive and relevant to their daily lives).

The data for the study came from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey of adults aged 18 and older. You can read the report in full — and the section on Minnesota — at the Trust for America’s Health’s website.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 09/05/2014 - 10:37 am.

    Hmm, two of the nation’s poorest states

    have the highest levels of obesity. I suspect that being too poor and/or isolated to afford anything but a diet consisting of starchy foods could be a factor.

  2. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 09/06/2014 - 12:06 pm.

    Corn Sweetener Use

    Increased over 1000% in those 30 years, but Monsanto tells me there is no connection to the obesity so its all good.

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