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Regulation and Compliance > State Regulation

The 10 fattest states in America

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There’s good news and there’s bad news about the state of obesity in the United States. The good? Obesity rates have essentially remained steady over the past year. The bad? They are still very, very high.

That’s the overall takeaway from the annual report on obesity released this week by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which found that nationally, more than 30 percent of adults are now obese. Additionally, nearly 17 percent of 2 to 19 year olds and more than 8 percent of children ages 2 to 5 are obese.

“Efforts to prevent and reduce obesity over the past decade have made a difference. Stabilizing rates is an accomplishment,” said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of TFAH. “However, 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.”

The 12th annual report found that rates of obesity now exceed 35 percent in three states (Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi), are at or above 30 percent in 22 states and are not below 21 percent in any. The state-by-state analysis is based on 2014 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The numbers are a huge spike from just a few decades ago.

In 1980, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent, and in 1991, no state had a rate above 20 percent, the researchers said.

Of course, obesity has huge health ramifications: Obesity puts some 78 million Americans at an increased risk for a range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It also is one costly epidemic, adding nearly $150 billion to annual medical costs in the U.S., according to the CDC.

Without further ado, let’s look at the 10 states with the highest obesity rates in the country.


10. South Carolina

Obesity rate: 32.1 percent

The Palmetto State ranks No. 10 on the list, with 32.1 percent of its adult residents qualifying as obese. Seven of the 10 states with the highest rates are in the South and 23 of the 25 states with the highest rates of obesity are in the South and Midwest.


9. North Dakota

Obesity rate: 32.2 percent 

North Dakota now has the ninth highest adult obesity rate in the nation but it fares a little better with its obesity rankings for 2- to 4-year-olds from low-income families (No. 27) and 10- to 17-year-olds (No. 20).


8. Ohio

Obesity rate: 32.6

Ohio was among the states that experienced a jump in its obesity rate in 2014. Ohio’s adult obesity rate is currently 32.6 percent, up from 20.6 percent in 2000.


7. Indiana

Obesity rate: 32.7 percent

Indiana’s adult obesity rate is currently 32.7 percent, up from 20.5 percent in 2000 and from 13.3 percent in 1990.


6. Oklahoma

Obesity rate: 33 percent

The obesity rate in the Sooner State is now at 33 percent, up from 20.1 percent in 2000 and from just 10.3 percent in 1990. Additionally, 12 percent of Oklahoma residents has diabetes, while 37.5 percent of the population suffers from hypertension.


5. Alabama

Obesity rate: 33.5 percent

In 1990, Alabama had an obesity rate of about 12 percent. It spiked to about 28 percent in 2003, and has steadily increased since then. The Heart of Dixie now is the fifth fattest state in America.


4. Louisiana

Obesity rate: 34.9 percent

Louisiana had the fourth highest adult obesity rate in the nation in 2014, sitting at nearly 35 percent. It’s up from 22.6 percent in 2000 and from 12.3 percent in 1990.


3. Mississippi

Obesity rate: 35.5 percent

The good news for Mississippi? It’s no longer No. 1 in obesity, and has remained at the same level of adult obesity — about 35 percent — since 2010. Also, the obesity rate among high school students fell from 18.1 percent in 2009 to 15.4 percent in 2013. But the state ranks 50th in physical activity.


2. West Virginia

Obesity rate: 35.7 percent

West Virginia’s adult obesity rate is currently 35.7 percent, up from 23.9 percent in 2000 and from 13.7 percent in 1990. The state has the No. 1 ranking for diabetes and hypertension cases in the nation among its residents.

Last year, West Virginia and Mississippi were tied in the No. 1 spot, at 35.1 percent.


1. Arkansas

Obesity rate: 35.9 percent

Arkansas is the new top dog in this category, with 35.9 percent of its residents being obese. In 1995, the state’s obesity rate was 17 percent, and in 2000, 21.9 percent.

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