More than one-third of Baton Rouge residents are obese, giving the city the dubious distinction of being the fattest in America.
According to new data from Gallup-Healthways on obesity in the United States, Baton Rouge’s 35.9% obesity rate is highest among America’s 100 largest metro areas. On the flip side, Colorado Springs, Colorado, is said to have the nation’s lowest obesity rate, at 19.6%.
The data also show the national obesity rate continued to rise, edging up to 27.7% in 2014 from 27.1% in 2013.
Gallup says Baton Rouge’s high obesity rate not only makes its residents vulnerable to a wide range of serious health issues—including high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, chronic pain and depression—but also is hurting its economy.
“For local government and business leaders, the finding that communities with high obesity rates also have lower financial and community well-being scores may be particularly concerning,” the Gallup report reads. “The most obese communities may have higher percentages of residents burdened with health care costs associated with treating obesity-related illnesses, which could have a ripple effect on the broader economy. And if residents in the most obese areas have lower community well-being, crime levels could rise and businesses may move elsewhere.”
The reasons for Baton Rouge’s weight problem appear to extend beyond the fatty, high-calorie foods that are staples in Cajun cuisine. Economics also play a part, Gallup says.
”Residents of the 10 communities with the highest obesity rates have much lower financial well-being than those living in the 10 communities with the lowest obesity rates,” Gallup says. “For instance, those living in the most obese communities are much more likely to worry about money and struggle to afford food and health care. These findings are consistent with previous Gallup and Healthways research showing that obesity is linked to long-term unemployment and lower incomes.”
Behind Baton Rouge on the listing of America’s most obese cities are: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (35.3%); Little Rock, Arkansas (34.1%); Tulsa, Oklahoma (33.5%); Dayton, Ohio (33.5%); and Memphis, Tennessee (33.2%).
In Louisiana, the obesity rate was 33.2% last year, the third-highest in the U.S. Mississippi and West Virginia have had the two highest obesity rates in the nation since 2012. Louisiana is among five states that have had consistently high obesity rates in recent years, along with Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas and Kentucky. These states have been among the 10 states with the highest obesity rates every year since Gallup-Healthways began tracking obesity in 2008.