America’s underlying pandemic is getting worse.
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) out Wednesday shows the number of states with high obesity rates nearly doubled in the course of two years, with at least 35 percent of residents in 16 states consisting of adults with obesity in 2020. The number of states is up from a dozen in 2019, and nine in 2018.
States added last year include Delaware, Iowa, Ohio, and Texas, each now home to a population where more than a third of people are obese. States that had already reached that benchmark by 2019 include Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
The map below from the CDC outlines the prevalence of obesity based on self-reported data of U.S. adults, with obesity defined as having a BMI of 30.0 or higher. Those with a BMI between 25.0 and 30 are considered overweight.
All states and U.S. territories in 2020 saw obesity rates exceed 20 percent, said the CDC, with data showing 42 percent of Americans nationwide were obese in 2017-2018. As of 2020, rates of obesity were most heavily concentrated in the Midwest and South, with Mississippi highest at 39.7 percent of the population obese, followed by West Virginia at 39.1 percent, and Alabama in third at 39.0 percent.
The soaring obesity rates raise the severity risk of new public health crises on the horizon, after exacerbating the pandemics already plaguing health care today. In addition to carrying long-term risks for heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, obesity as much as triples an individual’s chances for hospitalization from COVID-19. CDC data in March revealed 78 percent of those hospitalized with the novel coronavirus were obese or overweight, revealing the root cause of the pandemic’s severity.
“True health care for all would involve getting real food to these sickest of the sick,” Dr. Tim Logemann of the Wausau Aspirus Hospital Cardiologist and Obesity Treatment Program in Wisconsin told The Federalist. “Real food would treat or prevent many of the ‘diseases’ they suffer from and they would not need medicines, physicians, ER, etc.”
Instead, Logemann said, Americans have become addicted to processed foods routinely found in the center of the grocery stores.
“Medicines can’t compensate for bad food,” Logemann told The Federalist.
While coronavirus vaccines have proven effective at preventing severe outcomes from infection with COVID-19, the nation’s high rates of obesity leave the country vulnerable to future pandemics after it entered the existing one unhealthy to begin with. More than 73 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 and older were overweight in 2017-2018, according to the CDC, meaning those within a healthy weight category were in the minority as the coronavirus pandemic took shape.
The next generation is poised to enter the next pandemic in even worse shape than their parents after having normalized excessive weight gain to the point of vehement backlash against those who encourage otherwise.
According to a study out in August from researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Michigan, nearly half of the nation’s children aged 5 through 11 now qualify as either overweight or obese. Studies routinely show children are more likely to become overweight or obese if their parents share similar struggles. Nearly 46 percent of children aged 5 through 11 were reported obese or overweight following months of school closures, compared to 36 percent pre-pandemic.