Thursday, July 17, 2008

The South Will Snack Again

Strange Maps:
Mississippi is the fattest state in the Union, with 30.1% of Mississippians being obese. That’s almost one in every three inhabitants. Not that the Magnolia State (in red on this map) should be singled out for its massiveness. It is surrounded by four of the eight other fattest US states (in brown on this map): Tennessee (29.0%), Arkansas (29.3%), Louisiana (29.5%) and Alabama (30.1%). Being overweight clearly is a Southern thing - even if the second-fattest state, West-Virginia (30.6%), broke away from the rebellious South in 1863 to join the North.

The leanest states also tend to cluster:
  • States in the least but one category (22 to 24%) include Maine and New Hampshire; New York and New Jersey; and California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.
  • Some of the least obese (20.7 to 22%) states are Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
  • Another one, Utah, is adjacent to Colorado, which is by far the leanest state of them all (18.4%).
  • Overall, the Soutwest and New England are counting calories, while the South and to a lesser extent the Midwest are piling on the pounds.
Obesity, it may be useful to repeat, is not a euphemism for being overweight. It means being so fat that one’s health is affected. You are defined as obese if you have a body mass index of 30 or over (with a bmi of between 25 and 30, you are merely overweight).

The US is the most overweight nation in the world, with over a quarter of the total population being obese. Obesity is a global phenomenon, however. It was recently reported that for the first time in history, there are now more overweight than malnourished people in the world.
The clustering effects would support the notion that obestiy acts like a contagion.

Read how relative food prices affect obesity and see a similar, but less detailed map. Also, how smoking bans and the proximity of living near cheap food eating establishments correlates to weight.

Also, listen to Russ Robert's podcast on the economics of obesity.

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