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Minnesota’s obesity rate rose to 27.6% in 2014

Source: Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In most states, adult obesity rates remained high but stable in 2014, according to a new report issued Monday.

But not, unfortunately, in Minnesota. We were one of five states (along with Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio and Utah) whose rate actually increased slightly last year.

In 2014, 27.6 percent of Minnesota’s adults were obese, up from 25.5 percent in 2013, according to the report.

That’s significantly higher than the 22.6 percent of a decade ago (2004) and getting closer to being three times higher than the 10.3 percent of 25 years ago (1990).

The report, which is based on data collected from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was compiled and published by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Leaner than our neighbors

Even with last year’s percentage rise, Minnesota ranks somewhat low — 36th — on the obesity scale compared with the other states (and the District of Columbia).

Colorado had the lowest obesity rate in 2014, (21.3 percent), followed by the District of Columbia (21.7 percent), Hawaii (22.1 percent), Massachusetts (23.3 percent) and California (24.7 percent).

Arkansas had the highest obesity rate (35.9 percent), followed by West Virginia (35.7 percent), Mississippi (35.5 percent), Louisiana (34.9 percent) and Alabama (33.5 percent).

Seven of the 10 states with the highest rates of obesity are in the South, but 23 of the 25 states with the highest rates were in the South and Midwest.

Those Midwestern states include Minnesota’s immediate neighbors: 9th-ranked North Dakota (with an obesity rate of 32.2 percent), 14th-ranked Wisconsin (31.2 percent), 16th-ranked Iowa (30.9 percent) and 23rd-ranked South Dakota (29.8 percent).

A major health risk

Despite the overall stabilization of the country’s obesity rates, some 78 million Americans remain at increased risk of developing serious obesity-related illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer, the report points out.

Indeed, diabetes rates increased in eight states in 2014: Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. (Minnesota had the fifth lowest rate of adult diabetes in the report: 8.1 percent. But the report projects that the number of Minnesotans with diabetes will increase to about 610,000 in 2030 — almost 50 percent higher than the 410,000 Minnesotans who had the disease in 2010.)

Minnesota by the numbers
Source: Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Minnesota by the numbers

Other findings from the report underscore just how entrenched — and widespread — the obesity problem is in the United States:

  • Adult obesity rates now exceed 30 percent in 22 states, and all states have rates above 20 percent.
  • Three states (Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi) have obesity rates that exceed 35 percent.
  • The racial or ethnic group with the highest obesity rates is American Indian/Alaska Natives (54 percent).
  • Obesity rates are 38 percent higher nationally among blacks (47.8 percent) than whites (32.6 percent), and more than 26 percent higher among Latinos (42.5 percent) than whites.
  • Obesity rates are 26 percent higher among middle-aged adults than among younger adults: 30 percent of Americans aged 20 to 39 are obese compared to nearly 40 percent of those aged 40 to 59.
  • Among children and teens (2 to 19 years old), 22 percent of Latinos, 20 percent of blacks and 14 percent of whites are obese.
  • Six percent of adults are severely obese, and 5 percent of children are severely obese by the ages of 6 to 11.

Limited progress

The authors of the report appear to prefer looking at the data from a glass-half-full perspective.

“Efforts to prevent and reduce obesity over the past decades have made a difference,” said Jeffrey Levi, the executive director of Trust for America’s Health, in a released statement. “Stabilizing [obesity] rates is an accomplishment.”

Still, he added, “given the continued high rates, it isn’t time to celebrate. We’ve learned that if we invest in effective programs, we can see signs of progress. But we still haven’t invested enough to really tip the scales yet.”

You’ll find the report on the Trust for America’s Health website, including a section devoted specifically to Minnesota.

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