Pennsylvania gets lighter on national obesity scale

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We've lost weight -- a little bit.

Pennsylvania is officially the 20th most obese state in the nation, according to "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future," up from 19th last year.

The report, issued by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation annually, found that, for the first time in 30 years, obesity rates remained level in every state during the past year, except for Arkansas.

But don't reach for those fried pierogis yet.

Our obesity rates continue to be high, at 29.1 percent, and Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast that's in the top 20. The others are from the South and the Midwest.

There are a lot of research and prevention efforts out there -- the University of Pittsburgh is one of the top 10 recipients for research funding from the National Institutes of Health -- and they may be beginning to pay off, said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health.

Nutrition standards for school foods have been improved, health screenings for children have become more available and more community-based programs to combat obesity may have helped flatten the numbers.

"While stable rates of adult obesity may signal prevention efforts are starting to yield some results, the rates remain extremely high," he added. "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 health care system and Medicare."

Actually, baby boomers, defined as those born between the years 1946 and 1964, in particular, are the most obese, more so than older Americans or young people.

In Pennsylvania, 33.2 percent of baby boomers are obese, one of 41 states over 30 percent. Two states, Alabama and Louisiana, have obesity rates for this demographic that have reached 40 percent. By comparison, the obesity rates for senior citizens, those age 65 and over, exceed 30 percent for only one state, Louisiana, with Pennsylvania at 29.3 percent.

For young adults age 18 to 25, the obesity rate is 19.1 percent in Pennsylvania, with rates below 28 percent in every state.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the obesity rate among low-income children between the ages of 2 and 4 dropped slightly for the first time in 30 years, although Pennsylvania -- which has one of the nation's lowest obesity rates in that category -- was one of three states where obesity rates did go up.

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Mackenzie Carpenter: mcarpenter@post-gazette.com, 412 263-1949 or on Twitter @MackenziePG.


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