Research: Maryland city ranks as one of most obese in U.S.

America\'s obesity problem may be leveling off, but it\'s not all good news, one expert says. (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — One Maryland city may need to cut out some calories after new research ranked it among the most obese cities in the United States.

Hagerstown, Md., ranked No. 3 on a list of most obese cities with an obesity rate of more than 36 percent.

The data, collected from January 2012 through December 2013, included Americans’ self-reported height and weight to calculate Body Mass Index scores.

BMI scores of 30 or higher are considered obese.

The highest obesity rate can be found in Huntington, W. Va., according to the research, which Gallup and Healthways released last week.

Gallup interviewed at least 300 adults 18 and older in 189 Metropolitan Statistical Areas. Those areas have a core urban area of 50,000 or more in population and a micro area that contains an urban core of at least 10,000 (but less than 50,000) population.

The least obese city is Boulder, Colo., with an obesity rate of 12.4 percent, according to the research. Boulder has had the lowest obesity rate nearly every year since Gallup and Healthways began measuring in 2008.

Below is a list of the most obese U.S. cities and their obesity rates:

  1. Huntington, W.Va. (39.5 percent)
  2. McAllen, Texas (38.3 percent)
  3. Hagerstown, Md. (36.7 percent)
  4. Yakima, Wash. (35.7 percent)
  5. Little Rock, Ark. (35.1 percent)
  6. Charleston, W. Va. (34.6 percent)
  7. Toledo, Ohio (34.2 percent)
  8. Clarksville, Tenn. (33.8 percent)
  9. Jackson, Miss. (33.8 percent)
  10. Green Bay, Wis. (33 percent)
  11. Rockford, Ill. (33.0 percent)

Major Metro Areas’ Obesity Rates

The Washington, D.C., metro area was one of the least obese metro areas in the country, when researchers examined large communities with populations of more than 1 million.

In the D.C. area — which included Arlington and Alexandria in Virginia and Maryland communities — there was a more than 22 percent obesity rate, earning it the No. 7 spot on the least obese list.

Denver, Colo., ranked on the top as the least obese major U.S. community with a more than 19 percent obesity rate.

Not only is Colorado the state with the second-lowest obesity rate in the nation, but three of its metro areas — Boulder, Fort Collins and Denver — are among the 10 cities with the lowest obesity rates, according to the data.

“This may be because Colorado is known for its outdoor spaces and activities, which attracts active residents and encourages residents to live healthy lifestyles,” a Healthways news release says.

Also notable is that the Richmond, Va., area ranked No. 3 on the most obese major U.S. communities list. It has an obesity rate of 28.8 percent.

Below is a list of the most obese major U.S. communities with their obesity rates:

  1. Memphis, Tenn. (31.9 percent)
  2. San Antonio, Texas (31.1 percent)
  3. Richmond, Va. (28.8 percent)
  4. New Orleans, La. (28.7 percent)
  5. Columbus, Ohio (28.7 percent)
  6. Rochester, N.Y. (28.6 percent)
  7. Louisville, Ky. (28.4 percent)
  8. Oklahoma City, Okla. (28.4 percent)
  9. Detroit, Mich. (28.1 percent)
  10. Cleveland, Ohio (28.0 percent)

What Does It Mean?

In 2013, the U.S. obesity rate increased to 27.1 — the highest Gallup and Healthways recorded since tracking began in 2008. Obesity rates have increased in many communities since 2011, the research shows.

Adult obesity rates were above 15 percent in all but one of the 189 metro areas that Gallup and Healthways surveyed in 2012 and 2013.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 program had a goal of reducing obesity to 15 percent in each state. Boulder’s 12.4 percent obesity rate made it the only metro area to achieve the goal.

“Rising obesity rates have significant health consequences for both individuals and communities of all sizes. Numerous social, environmental, economic and individual factors may all contribute to physical inactivity and consumption of less healthy foods, two lifestyle behaviors linked to obesity,” Healthways Lifestyle Solutions Director Janna Lacatell said in a news release.

Lacatell says community-based policies and environmental approaches may help combat the trend.

“With the national obesity rate at an all-time high, a focus on lowering obesity rates at the local level could be an effective way to reduce the obesity rate and its negative effects on the economy and individuals,” the release says.

To see the rest of the most obese/least obese rankings, go to the Gallup website.


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