CDC Maps Rising Obesity Rates by State

The South has long been home to grits, fried chicken, Coca-Cola, ham biscuits, and other culinary landmines, so it should come as no surprise that the nation’s obesity rate is climbing due in large part to millions of obese southerners, according to data released this week by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall, more than 35% of adults in this country fall into the obese category — that is, they have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. That means that out of a nation of more than 311 million people, over 100 million people are dangerously overweight.

What the CDC has recently done is determine exactly where those 78 million obese Americans live. While no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%, Mississippi has earned the unfortunate distinction of having the highest obesity rate in the nation, with nearly 35% of its entire population falling into the obese BMI range. From the CDC:

39 states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states had a prevalence of 30% or more: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.

The lowest obesity rate in the nation is found in Colorado, at barely 20%. The next least obese state is Hawaii with 21.8% of its residents reportedly suffering from obesity.

The data was gathered by a CDC project known as the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System — or BRFSS. According to, “The BRFSS is a massive, continuous telephone survey of adults in U.S. states and territories, and every year it churns out high-quality information on a vast array of public health issues: smoking, heart disease, arthritis, asthma, immunization coverage, cancers, diet…. For anyone interested in health data, it’s a huge resource.”

Take a look at these maps that show the obesity rate over time:
obesity percentagesobesity 1985obesity 1990obesity 1995obesity 2000obesity 2005obesity 2010obesity percentages

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