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South Not Fattest Part of U.S. After All, Study Says

Midwest states lead the way (Apr. 11)

It goes against popular belief, but a recent study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham shows that the southern region of the U.S. is not the fattest part of the country.

“The obesity epidemic is overwhelming the U.S., and there’s this strong perception that Mississippi and Alabama are number one and number two in obesity — fighting for last place,” said George Howard, Dr.PH.

Howard said that, according to data from the long-running REGARDS (Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke) study, the West North Central part of the country, which includes North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri, is the fattest area — with a 41% obese population. The findings were recently published in Obesity.

The study grouped states into regions used by the U.S. Census Bureau in order to compare data with those of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to confirm the findings from REGARDS. Mississippi and Alabama are part of the East South Central region of the U.S., which also includes Tennessee and Kentucky. REGARDS ranked the region fifth out of nine regions, with a 34% obese population, and NHANES showed that it was seventh out of eight regions, with only 31% obese.

Howard said it is important that obesity rankings be correct, as a lot rides on these numbers.

“A lot of decisions are based on geographic differences in obesity — such as how much federal funding goes to regions to fight obesity,” Howard said. “Typically, the South has received the most because others have said it’s the fattest, but it might not be. The South has had very bad obesity problems, but not worse than some other regions.”

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham; April 11, 2013.

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