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Study: Minnesota's obesity rate reaches a new record high

The annual State of Obesity report makes for unwelcome reading for Minnesotans.
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Minnesota's obesity rate shot up in 2018, with 30.1 percent of state residents now considered technically obese.

That's the finding of the latest State of Obesity report by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), which ranks Minnesota as tied for 30th among the most obese states.

However, Minnesota's obesity rate shot up compared to 2017, when the obesity rate was 28.4 percent, representing the largest single-year increase in obesity since TFAH started publishing its report annually in 2003.

The lowest Minnesota's obesity rate has been in the past 15 years was 22.6 percent in 2004, while the rate was 16.4 percent in 2000, 14.6 percent in 1995, and 10.3 percent in 1990.

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This means the state's obesity rate is almost tripled over the past 30 years, though it's still below the national rate of 30.9 percent.

The report has been compiled after analysis of data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with TFAH calling for taxes on sugary drinks, and the expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

The study found that the obesity rate among American residents on the WIC program has been falling, from 15.9 percent to 13.9 percent, which came amid changes to its dietary guidelines that introduced more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to the program, reduced juice provisions, and decreased fat levels in milk and infant formula.

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"These latest data shout that our national obesity crisis is getting worse," said John Auerbach, CEO of TFAH. "They tell us that almost 50 years into the upward curve of obesity rates we haven’t yet found the right mix of programs to stop the epidemic. 

"Isolated programs and calls for life-style changes aren’t enough. Instead, our report highlights the fundamental changes that are needed in the social and economic conditions that make it challenging for people to eat healthy foods and get sufficient exercise."

There remains disparities among racial and socio-economic lines, with the obesity rate among the black and Latino population significantly higher than white and Asian populations. 

People with lower incomes, and thus live in neighborhoods with fewer options for health food, are also more likely to be obese.

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.

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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."

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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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