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Michigan, Ohio get bad news in obesity report

Annual ranking puts both among top 13 nationwide


The annual report states that 30.5 percent of adults in Michigan are obese compared to 29.6 percent in Ohio.

The Blade/Lisa Bernheim
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This is one annual battle Michigan can have.

Michigan again was named the 10th-most obese state in the nation, although Ohio didn't fare much better by repeating in 13th place, according to an annual report released Thursday by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

But while Michigan won the battle of the bulge with an average 30.5 percent adult obesity rate from 2007 to 2009, compared to 29.6 percent in Ohio, the Buckeye State takes the prize for expanding at a faster pace.

Ohio is the 15th-fastest growing state for adult obesity rates when compared to 1995, while Michigan -- which started out with a higher rate than Ohio 16 years ago -- is the 17th fastest, the report said.

And both states are among 43 states with an obesity rate higher than 24 percent, which is more than any state had in 2000, according to the report. Obesity is measured by a person's body mass index, a calculation using weight and height to determine body fat.

Obesity contributes to other medical conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure, helping cause U.S. health-care costs and job-productivity losses to soar, said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health.

"It's not just our health that is suffering," he said during a media conference call Thursday.

In the last 15 years, diabetes rates in Ohio have jumped from 5.4 percent to 10 percent, while Michigan's have increased from 7.6 percent to 9.5 percent, according to the report released Thursday. Hypertension rates have shot up from 20.7 percent to 29.1 percent in Ohio over the last 15 years, while they have climbed from 23.1 percent to 28.7 percent in Michigan, it said.

At last count, in 2007, Lucas County had an adult obesity rate of 33 percent. An updated survey on obesity and other health indicators in Lucas County is under way.

In a 2008 study, the American Heart Association gave Toledo some of the worst marks among 200 metro areas for rates of obesity, diabetes, fast-food outlets per capita, unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, and cardiac-related deaths among women.

Fighting obesity is not just about diet and exercise, said Dr. David Grossman, commissioner of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.

Nutritious items such as fresh produce -- instead of typically less nutritious packaged and fast food -- need to be more affordable, with more subsidies given to farmers to make it so, Dr. Grossman said.

Low-income Lucas County families receiving assistance from the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children are encouraged to shop at the Toledo Farmer's Market, one example of ongoing efforts locally to reverse obesity rates, he said.

"It's not that the people don't want to do it," Dr. Grossman said. "It's access."

Race, education, and poverty are associated with adult obesity too, according to the report.

Blacks have the highest obesity rates in both Michigan and Ohio, at 41.1 percent and 40.8 percent, respectively. Latinos in Michigan had a 32.9 percent obesity rate, while those in Ohio had a 32.5 percent rate. Whites had a 29.1 percent obesity rate in Michigan and a 28.7 obesity rate in Ohio, the report said.

Nationwide, nearly 33 percent of those who did not graduate from high school are obese, while 21.5 percent of adults who graduated from college or technical college are. More than 33 percent of adults earning less than $15,000 a year are obese compared to 24.6 percent of those earning $50,000 or more a year, it said.

Mississippi had the highest adult obesity rate in the country at 34.4 percent, followed by Alabama and West Virginia at 32.2 percent. Oklahoma had the fastest rate of obesity in the last 15 years, followed by Alabama and Tennessee, according to the eighth annual report, which included that comparison for the first time.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: or 419-724-6087.

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