Another victory of sorts for Lake Wobegon: Minnesota has the lowest rate of overweight children in the nation, according to a report on obesity in America.
Unfortunately, that still means 23 out of 100 kids in the state are overweight or clinically obese.
The report, released Wednesday by the Trust for America's Health, a health advocacy group in Washington, found little to celebrate in its sixth annual assessment of the nation's weight problem. It confirmed what other studies have shown: More than two-thirds of American adults and nearly one-third of children are overweight or obese.
But it did offer some hints about why, when it comes to kids, Minnesota may be above average. It also suggested that schools, towns and parents all have a role in stemming the tide.
"Obviously, Minnesota is doing something right," said Serena Vinter, one of the authors. While noting that it's hard to pin down the exact reasons, she said physical activity and low poverty rates appeared to play a role.
Jamie Stang, a dietician and obesity researcher at the University of Minnesota, said she's not surprised by the state's ranking. "We've always been sort of at the bottom of the pack, which is where we want to be in this case," she said.
While it may reflect the economic makeup of the state, Stang also credits the Minnesota lifestyle. "I think we have a lot of natural sites where kids can be active, whether it's parks of trails or lakes," she said. "We also tend to just be a more active culture."
At the same time, experts cautioned against reading too much into Minnesota's ranking. "There really is nothing to cheer about," said Martha Roberts, who oversees an obesity prevention program for the Minnesota Department of Health. "We have an epidemic nationally and in the state of Minnesota, and it's growing."
Still, Minnesota's rate of overweight children was roughly half that of Mississippi, which topped the national rankings at 44.4 percent. (The number is based on a child's body-mass index, a calculation using height and weight, and included those who are moderately overweight to obese.)
Mississippi also had the highest rate of adult obesity: 32.5 percent. Minnesota ranked 31st in the nation, at 25.3 percent. The adult obesity rates included only those with a body-mass index of 30 or higher; it did not count the moderately overweight.
The state differences are at least partly socioeconomic, Stang said. "Lower income populations, regardless of their race [or] ethnicity, tend to be more likely to be overweight," she said. That is where Minnesota's higher income and education levels come into play, she said.
The report, however, says there are steps that every community can take, and it issued a call for a "national strategy to combat obesity."
Among other things, it suggests:
•Less junk food at schools.
•More home cooking and less eating out.
•More gym time for students.
•Limits on children's computer and television time.
•More workplace wellness programs.
Without such changes, the authors say, health costs will skyrocket because of the complications of obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease.
The report, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was based on telephone surveys of about 1 million adults and the parents of nearly 90,000 children.
WHAT IT TAKES TO KEEP KIDS FIT
• Less junk food
• More home cooking; less eating out
• Nutrition info at restaurants
• More phy. ed.
• Less TV and computer time