Minnesota's obesity rate unchanged between 2018 and 2019

There is extra concern over obesity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Minnesota's obesity rate remained unchanged between 2018 and 2019, according to figures released by the Department of Health this week.

The state's adult obesity rate stayed at 30.1% in 2019, matching the record high in 2019 which itself came after several years of rises, with the rate having been at 25.5% in 2013.

A person is considered clinically obese when their body-mass index (BMI) is over 30. Minnesota's rate remains below the national average of 31.4%, and also lower than neighboring states North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

There is a particular focus on obesity this year, given that it is considered one of the "underlying conditions" that can put an individual at greater risk of suffering severe complications from COVID-19.

"We have learned that obesity is one of the factors that can make a case of COVID-19 much worse and hospitalization more likely,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm.

“These numbers highlight how many Minnesotans share this risk and the importance of us protecting each other with masking and social distancing. It also shows the importance of our ongoing community efforts to prevent obesity through individual and community-level responses, such as smart policy changes that support access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity."

The health department suggests that as well as taking precautions to prevent infection from COVID – such as mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing – people with obesity should look to be active, eat a healthy diet that supports immune function, get enough sleep, and take any medications they have been prescribed for underlying conditions.

How obesity is calculated, and its limitations

Obesity is classed as having a bodymass index (BMI) of 30 and above for those aged 18 and older. In children, those in the 95th BMI percentile are considered obese.

This is calculated in the following way.

Screen Shot 2019-09-12 at 9.25.31 AM

So if you're 185 pounds and 6 foot tall, you first multiple 72 by 72, which 5,184, and then divide 185 by that figure.

That leaves roughly 0.0356, which when multiplied by 703 produces a BMI of 25.08, which is technically "overweight."

Screen Shot 2019-09-12 at 9.10.07 AM

TFAH concedes that the BMI calculation is an inexpensive method of determining obesity but "has its limitations and is not accurate for all individuals."

As it notes, "muscular" people will often have a lower body fat level than their BMI would suggest.

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