South Carolina ranks seventh in the nation for the percentage of its citizens who are obese, according to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The latest survey from 2012 found 13 states with at least 30 percent obesity rates last year. South Carolina had 31 percent of residents who were obese and 35 percent who were overweight. Louisiana and Mississippi led the list with 35 percent each, while Colorado had the lowest rate. No state was below 20 percent.
On the other end of the scale, 32% of South Carolina residents were considered normal, while less than 2 percent were underweight.
Edward Archer, a research fellow at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, says Southern states tend to have higher rates because their residents are less active.
“The greatest threat we have to our society and probably the greatest health issue that we have in the 21st Century is physical inactivity,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “Most of the increased prevalence of obesity is being driven by inactive and sedentary lifestyles.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does the telephone survey each year and released the state list for 2012 earlier this month. The numbers are based on body mass index, which is calculated based on a person’s weight and height ratio.
The CDC survey does show a decline in obesity rates among low-income preschoolers in 19 states from 2008 to 2011 (and no change in 26 others). But South Carolina was not included in that section of the study.
“Although obesity remains epidemic, the tide has begun to turn for some kids in some states,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “While the changes are small, for the first time in a generation they are going in the right direction. Obesity in early childhood increases the risk of serious health problems for life.”
Overall, the rates of adult obesity have been holding steady at roughly the same levels nationwide for nearly five years. But Archer warned that does not mean things are getting better.
“The plateau is as much a measurement issue as it is an actual demographic change,” he said. “There are portions of our population, especially the most obese of our population, have exponentially increased their weight, with dire consequences.”
He also worried that the surveys relied on faulty criteria. For example, a child classifies as “obese” if their body mass index is at or above the 95th percentile for their peers of the same age and sex. Archer said that statistic does not take into account whether or not the average weight of all children is also increasing— steadily raising the weight required to be considered “obese.”
For adults, the CDC defines someone as obese if their body mass index hits 30 or higher.