As if to spoil everyone’s deep-fried fun at the State Fair last week, the Minnesota Department of Health announced some sobering news.
Minnesota’s adult obesity rate is on the rise again.
After declining slightly between 2014 and 2015, the share of Minnesotans who describe themselves as obese edged up to an all-time high of 27.8 percent in 2016. The results are based on responses to a health survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Minnesota’s obesity rate was lower than the U.S. median, 29.8 percent, and those of neighboring states. But the uptick was nonetheless viewed as bad news.
Obesity increases the risk of a variety of diseases, including diabetes and stroke. Minnesota spent $2.8 billion on obesity-related health care costs in 2009 alone, the health department said.
Health authorities define obesity as having a body mass index of 30 or higher, which would translate into a 5-foot-9-inch person weighing 203 pounds or more.
Obesity rates in Minnesota split along lines of affluence and economic security, said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, state health commissioner.
Minnesotans who rarely worry about their ability to pay for food and housing reported an obesity rate of 25 percent as a group. Those who did worry about those necessities had an obesity rate of 33 percent.
“People in that stressful situation end up worrying about a whole variety of things that people with secure housing don’t have to worry about,” Ehlinger said. “That stress is toxic, and it interferes with people’s ability to get out and be active and have access to healthy foods. Those factors in turn greatly impact how well we eat and how much we move.”
Minnesotans also were less likely to describe themselves as obese if they reported some level of physical activity in the 30 days before the survey. Among those who exercised some, 25.6 percent described themselves as obese, vs. 37.9 percent among those who didn’t.
Minnesota’s adult obesity rate increased by 9 percentage points between 2000 and 2007, but leveled off after that.
State health advocates credit public health investments in recreational trails, farmers markets and other programs for halting that rise.