A recent report released by the CDC has revealed what many may already know. A love affair with the drive-thru and hectic schedules have sent the obesity epidemic ballooning to new proportions. According to the study, approximately one-third of U.S. adults are considered obese. The label, while drenched in social stigma, is one of scientific standards. To be considered obese by a medical standpoint, traditionally an individual must be 20 percent heavier than his or her recommended weight. Height, age, and build are factored into the equation, but a common rule of thumb defines obesity as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above.
BMI – What It Means
An individual’s BMI is a key factor in determining overall health. While the number has come under some scrutiny as of late, the CDC still recommends determining BMI when assessing a healthy body weight. BMI is calculated by a person’s height and weight, the resulting magic number subsequently determining, in part, an individual’s standing when it comes to obesity. According to the CDC, BMI is calculated by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches, squared, and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703. If the end result is 30 or over, you are classified as obese.
The CDC’s website explains that the BMI equation is used in the fight against obesity because of its simplicity and low cost of assessment. However, many experts argue that the equation is open to interpretation and may not yield the most accurate results. BMI is not a direct measurement of body fat. In a 2000 study conducted by the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College, it was revealed that several children who tested within the normal range of body fat had been labeled obese according to BMI calculation.
The Fat Statistics
While obesity is a growing problem across the board, the disease seems to be developing in some corners of society more than others. New findings from the CDC show that non-Hispanic African-Americans have the highest rate of obesity (49.5 percent) and thus, the highest rate of diabetes. Non-Hispanic Caucasians were found to have the lowest rate of obesity, though their rate of 34.3 percent was still high when compared to other races. Most surprising, perhaps, was the conclusion that among higher earning African-American and Mexican-American men, obesity was much more likely to occur in comparison with their lower earning counterparts. Education, however, apparently played no role among men; the CDC concluded that college-educated and non-college-educated men had the same chance of becoming obese. Women did not escape the same fate; the report noted that females with college degrees are much less likely to become obese than those who never attend a university.
How Oregon and Corvallis Stack Up
While Oregon has an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, farms and farmers’ markets, its prevalence of self-reported obesity currently sits at 26.7 percent, with Corvallis ranking about the same at 20.6 percent. In 2010, the percentage of Oregonians who had a BMI of 30 or more was 26.8 percent. This puts Oregon in the same league as stereotypically obese states such as Texas (30.4), Louisiana (33.4), and West Virginia (32.4). On a national obesity scale ranging from 15 to 35 percent, Oregon falls smack in the middle with an obesity rating of 25 to 30 percent. No state in the U.S. currently has a rating below 20 percent; the highest is Mississippi at 34.9 percent.
The numbers are scary, and according to the CDC they are more accurate than figures given in the past. In 2011, the CDC changed its baseline criteria with the department explaining it was necessary to “…change its methods to adapt to the changing world and to maintain validity.” As a result, the new data cannot be compared to past data collected.
Facing the Facts
A healthy lifestyle is what we should all be striving for. Today’s fast-paced world, easy options, and unhealthy choices don’t always make it easy. However, looking at the statistics, the choice becomes clear. The average health care cost for an obese person is $1,429 more each year than for someone of a healthy weight. The risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease skyrocket for those who are obese, and it’s safe to say that the quality of life suffers as well.
By Caitlyn May