Obesity problem in USA

Obesity problem in United States (© andriano_cz - stock.adobe.com)

WASHINGTON — The South is known for its fine cuisine and delicious barbecue, but a new survey finds it’s also at the center of the nation’s growing obesity epidemic. Researchers have found that many of the country’s most overweight and obese cities are in the southern part of the United States.

WalletHub’s findings (full list below) also paint a concerning picture of health and financial burdens across the nation. With nearly 42 percent of U.S. adults classified as obese, the ramifications extend far beyond individual health, affecting the nation’s economy with obesity-related medical treatments costing around $190.2 billion annually and work absenteeism resulting in approximately $4.3 billion in productivity losses each year.

The study compared 100 of the most populated U.S. metropolitan areas across 19 key metrics, ranging from the percentage of physically inactive adults to future obesity projections and access to healthy foods. This approach sheds light on the cities that are most affected by weight-related issues and underscores the pressing need for public health interventions.

Obesity is becoming more and more prevalent in the U.S., and it’s costing us big time,” says Cassandra Happe, a WalletHub analyst, in a media release. “In the most overweight and obese cities, residents often lack easy access to healthy food and recreation opportunities, so investing in those areas should help improve people’s diets and exercise regimens, and reduce the financial burden overall.”

obesity obese man belly fat
Over 40 percent of U.S. adults are classified as obese by the CDC. (Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya on Unsplash)

The South Leads The Obesity Epidemic

Topping the list, McAllen, Texas is grappling with severe obesity issues, with 45 percent of its adult population classified as obese. This city not only records the highest percentage of obese adults but also significant numbers of overweight children and teenagers. McAllen’s residents face numerous health challenges, including high rates of diabetes and heart disease, exacerbated by a lack of physical activity and limited access to recreational spaces.

Jackson, Mississippi stands as the second-most overweight city, with alarming obesity rates among children and adults alike. The city records the highest percentage of children between 10 and 17 years-old classified as obese. Health complications such as strokes, diabetes, and high blood pressure are prevalent, painting a grim picture of the community’s overall well-being. Contributing factors to this epidemic include insufficient exercise and poor access to nutritious food.

Ranking third, Shreveport Louisiana’s obesity crisis spans across all age groups, with equal percentages of adults being overweight and obese. The city faces significant health concerns, including the highest rate of high blood pressure and a near top ranking in adults with high cholesterol. A major contributing factor to the city’s obesity problem is unhealthy eating habits, coupled with a lack of physical activity and access to healthy food options.

Rounding out the top five of most overweight U.S. cities is Mobile, Alabama, and Little Rock, Arkansas. Not surprisingly, McAllen, Mobile, and Jackson also rank in the top three of the most physically inactive adults in the nation.

On the other end of the spectrum, the survey highlights the least overweight cities in the U.S. as well. The bottom five include San Jose, California; Denver, Colorado; Boston, Massachusetts; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Seattle, Washington.

Most Overweight Cities in the U.S.

Overall Rank  Metro Area Total Score  Obesity & Overweight Rank  Health Consequences Rank  Food & Fitness Rank 
1 McAllen, Texas 85.54 4 2 2
2 Jackson, Mississippi 84.58 2 6 8
3 Shreveport, LA 83.82 7 4 17
4 Mobile, AL 83.11 10 7 11
5 Little Rock, Arkansas 82.31 5 24 7
6 Knoxville, Tennessee 81.71 25 1 18
7 Memphis, Tennessee 81.65 23 3 4
8 Lafayette, LA 81.64 8 25 15
9 Baton Rouge, Louisiana 81.28 11 5 26
10 Chattanooga, Tennessee 81.15 20 8 13
11 Birmingham, Alabama 81.02 18 12 3
12 Columbia, South Carolina 80.06 21 16 10
13 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 80.03 9 31 21
14 Tulsa, Oklahoma 79.64 6 22 36
15 Fayetteville, AR 79.34 14 26 28
16 Augusta, Georgia 79.31 31 13 6
17 New Orleans, Louisiana 78.91 13 23 25
18 Canton, OH 78.78 39 10 23
19 Wichita, Kansas 78.39 37 17 12
20 Youngstown, Ohio 78.23 22 41 16
21 San Antonio, Texas 78.18 1 33 67
22 Winston, North Carolina 77.77 68 11 1
23 Fort Wayne, IN 77.66 41 18 14
24 Greenville, South Carolina 77.65 36 34 9
25 Dallas, Texas 77.61 12 32 39
26 Myrtle Beach, SC 77.47 32 28 24
27 El Paso, Texas 77.33 3 64 45
28 Louisville, Kentucky 76.83 15 14 64
29 Charleston, South Carolina 76.58 17 57 30
30 Greensboro, North Carolina 76.31 62 15 5
31 Huntsville, AL 76.22 33 91 20
32 Akron, Ohio 76.11 19 60 37
33 Toledo, Ohio 75.94 27 40 31
34 Detroit, Michigan 75.79 58 9 29
35 Riverside, California 75.56 55 19 22
36 Albuquerque, New Mexico 75.54 16 36 52
37 Lexington-Fayette, KY 75.50 30 39 32
38 Nashville, Tennessee 75.40 28 59 27
39 Dayton, Ohio 75.39 40 45 35
40 Columbus, Ohio 74.62 26 43 51
41 Grand Rapids, Michigan 74.54 42 35 48
42 Cincinnati, Ohio 73.78 24 27 82
43 Indianapolis, Indiana 73.33 45 48 40
44 Scranton, Pennsylvania 73.17 59 37 41
45 Richmond, Virginia 73.10 70 20 42
46 Cleveland, Ohio 73.02 34 72 44
47 Providence, Rhode Island 73.02 48 56 49
48 Kansas City, Missouri 72.90 44 63 34
49 Houston, Texas 72.57 29 62 65
50 Charlotte, North Carolina 72.57 60 21 56
51 Virginia Beach, Virginia 72.22 57 30 59
52 Phoenix, Arizona 71.90 49 61 43
53 Reno, NV 71.75 51 47 60
54 Omaha, Nebraska 71.64 38 67 69
55 Des Moines, Iowa 71.47 46 86 53
56 Hartford, Connecticut 71.34 66 53 50
57 Las Vegas, Nevada 71.28 50 29 87
58 Raleigh, North Carolina 71.16 56 46 62
59 Milwaukee, Wisconsin 71.07 43 38 81
60 Durham, NC 70.86 74 80 19
61 Atlanta, Georgia 70.49 47 42 85
62 Allentown, Pennsylvania 70.35 67 77 47
63 Baltimore, Maryland 70.33 64 54 58
64 Asheville, NC 70.19 82 50 38
65 Anchorage, AK 69.77 63 65 61
66 Austin, Texas 69.65 35 79 89
67 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 69.61 52 44 90
68 New Haven, Connecticut 69.41 71 75 66
69 St. Louis, Missouri 69.39 54 66 76
70 Spokane, Washington 68.60 72 78 57
71 Orlando, Florida 68.01 79 49 74
72 Tucson, Arizona 67.50 75 52 84
73 Springfield, Massachusetts 67.39 87 69 63
74 Los Angeles, California 66.93 73 71 79
75 Portland, ME 66.85 85 81 71
76 Tampa, Florida 66.78 69 83 77
77 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 66.75 65 88 80
78 Manchester, NH 66.66 92 51 54
79 San Diego, California 66.21 83 58 86
80 Bridgeport, Connecticut 66.01 81 98 73
81 Jacksonville, Florida 65.84 88 68 72
82 Washington, District of Columbia 65.56 53 76 98
83 Miami, Florida 65.48 76 85 83
84 Chicago, Illinois 65.37 61 92 94
85 Ogden, Utah 65.24 94 70 46
86 Worcester, Massachusetts 65.19 89 95 55
87 Sacramento, California 64.68 77 82 92
88 New York, New York 64.22 79 74 99
89 Boise, Idaho 64.17 91 55 78
90 Provo, Utah 63.75 100 84 33
91 Salt Lake City, Utah 63.22 99 73 75
92 Portland, Oregon 62.07 78 89 97
93 San Francisco, California 62.01 86 97 93
94 Colorado Springs, Colorado 61.83 97 94 68
95 Minneapolis, Minnesota 61.65 84 87 96
96 San Jose, California 60.77 90 100 91
97 Denver, Colorado 60.57 98 99 70
98 Boston, Massachusetts 60.55 96 90 88
99 Honolulu, Hawaii 59.04 93 93 100
100 Seattle, Washington 58.33 95 96 95

Note: With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that metro area, where a rank of 1 represents the worst conditions for that metric category.

Experts are calling on the federal government to enact policies to help battle the obesity epidemic.

“Invest in nutrition education and promoting healthy eating habits in schools, workplaces, and communities,” says Dr. Jeffrey J. Fisher, director of the Allen Foundation Culinary Nutrition Center and associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Central Michigan University. “Bring back the USDA SuperTracker, an interactive food and physical activity tracking tool. Continue collaborating with the food industry on nutritional labeling to empower consumers to make better food choices. Work with the food industry to encourage the reformulation of products to include more plant-sourced foods.”

Methodology

In order to determine the fattest cities in America, WalletHub compared 100 of the most populated U.S. metro areas across three key dimensions: 1) Obesity & Overweight, 2) Health Consequences and 3) Food & Fitness.

About Matt Higgins

Matt Higgins worked in national and local news for 15 years. He started out as an overnight production assistant at Fox News Radio in 2007 and ended in 2021 as the Digital Managing Editor at CBS Philadelphia. Following his news career, he spent one year in the automotive industry as a Digital Platforms Content Specialist contractor with Subaru of America and is currently a freelance writer and editor for StudyFinds. Matt believes in facts, science and Philadelphia sports teams crushing his soul.

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35 Comments

  1. Diane S Gagliardi says:

    Have lived as an adult in Long Island NY, Southeast Florida, Cleveland Ohio area, and now on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Everybody loves eating everywhere. McDonalds and KFC are everywhere. The difference is, here is the Deep South the portions are HUGE!!!! I mean GIGANTIC! For instance, one of the most popular dishes for lunch is something called a Roast Beef Poboy. It is a full sized loaf of French Bread smothered in at least a half pound of roast beef and gravy. It is purposefully a very sloppy dish. The average man eats the whole thing along with a basket of fries. Then he does it again tomorrow.

    Did I forget to mention the beer consumption?

    1. Htos1av says:

      But IF you did THAT up TO THE 1930’s, you were STILL rail skinny!!!!!!! (THOSANDS OF FILMS PROVE IT)
      WHAT “CHANGED”? Oh YEAH!! Metals……(and Rockefellers)

      First you got ‘rem from Salk, THEN after WWII, you got hydro “flouric” acid in your tap water, and FINALLY!!!!!!
      1982, when none other THAN DON RUMSFELD “sold” aspartame TO Coca-Cola, and “demanded” that the FDA order ALL tri-iodine supplementation of ALL commercially produced US foods, salts, and flours ENDED, so it doesn’t “ignite” with iodine.

      Hope this helps. Had a parent retired from Hollister-Steir labs from 1964.

  2. 1stSister says:

    The next article: what chemicals fda allows in our food processing & processed foods that lend to obesity/ allergic long term reactions/ and compromised health. Europe has banned 90% of the added chemicals that we use here in our food distribution. Do your research.

    1. Htos1av says:

      DING! DING! DING!

  3. Harpo Hart says:

    Big Pharma is drooling over the future of obese customers for life.

  4. Htos1av says:

    So what? MOST of the “hot shots’ went south, too, especially to military bases.

  5. ed says:

    Can we break it down by ethnicity ?