Californians now fatter than Alaskans!

Just over a third of Alaskans today qualify as obese, making residents of the 49th state a perfect match for the citizens of Georgia and Maryland, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

By the standards of an unfit and ununited nation, however, all three states are doing better than average in the battle against America’s obesity epidemic.

With obesity rates of 33.4 percent, Alaska, Georgia and Maryland rank in the lower half of the 50 states. Even a notoriously body-conscious and very blue California is now heavier with 37.8 percent of its population obese.

South Dakota is the leader of the fat pack at 41.2 percent, a number a little lower than that of Anchorage Mount View neighborhood at 42.2 percent and the Bethel Census Area in far Western Alaska at 42.8 percent.

An interactive map created by Tk in cooperation with the CDC breaks down the rates for boroughs and census areas and many neighborhoods in the 49th state where there are significant differences in obesity rates.

Fairbanks’ College neighborhood might be the sveltest place in the state with only 16.6 percent of the population reported to be obese.

It should be noted here that the CDC data is not for people simply judged overweight, approximately another third of Americans, but for people who truly qualify as supersize.

To reach obese status, the average American woman of 5-feet, 4-inches in height must get her weight up to at least 174 pounds, and the average American man at just under 5-feet, 10-inches tall must reach 209 pounds, according to the standard body mass index (BMI) chart.

Scientists agree the BMI chart is flawed and some have suggested that waist size might better measure obesity, but as a general measure of the nation’s metabolic health, BMI remains a decent yardstick.

And Americans are moving the wrong way on the scale, according to the CDC, bringing with them all sorts of health problems.

Rounder and rounder

The CDC now defines obesity itself as “a common, serious, and costly chronic disease of adults and children,” but obesity is also an indicator of a general lack of physical fitness, which might be an even bigger problem in this country.

Lack of physical fitness has long been tied to a host of chronic diseases and is now clearly linked to the nation’s high death toll from Covid-19 during the pandemic, according to the CDC.

Health researchers saw this coming more than a decade ago when they warned that physical inactivity had become a “primary cause of most chronic diseases” in the Western world.

In a peer-reviewed study in Comprehensive Physiology in 2012, they linked inactivity to, among other things, “accelerated biological aging/premature death…sarcopenia, metabolic syndrome, obesity, insulin resistance, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, coronary heart disease, peripheral artery disease, hypertension, stroke, congestive heart failure, endothelial dysfunction, arterial dyslipidemia, hemostasis, deep vein thrombosis, cognitive dysfunction, depression and anxiety, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, balance, bone fracture/falls, rheumatoid arthritis, colon cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, polycystic ovary syndrome, erectile dysfunction, pain, diverticulitis, constipation, and gallbladder diseases.”

Many of those conditions are now on the list of so-called “comorbidities” that upped the pandemic death count in the U.S. with “accelerated biological aging” helping to explain why the age-related deaths in locked-down America differed from the age-related deaths in Sweden with its much more laidback approach to the pandemic.

Of the nearly 23,000 dead of Covid-19 to date in Sweden, the data tracking website Statista records that about 96 percent were over the age of 60. U.S. deaths also weigh heavily toward older people as is the case globally in general.

But, according to CDC data, one has to go all the way down to the age 50 to 64 age group to get close to the Swedish percentage. Approximately 94 percent of the dead in the U.S. were 50 or older.

A direct comparison of those at age 60 or older is difficult in that the CDC categorizes deaths by age groups from 50 to 64 and from 65 to 74 while the Swedes break deaths down in age groups from 60 to 69 and 70 to 79.

But if one were to presume that half of the 201,588 Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 reported dead of Covid-19 were in the older third of that cohort (age 60 and older) and do the math accordingly, the numbers would indicate approximately 15 percent of America’s dead were under age 60.

That’s nearly four times greater than the number of Swedes under the age of 60 dead of Covid-19.

This should, however, come as no surprise.

Handwriting on the wall

As the researchers reported in 2012,  U.S. “physical inactivity increases mortality by 30 percent or by 720,000 annual deaths (one death every 44 seconds). Our estimations are that U.S. healthcare costs of inactivity will range from $2.2 trillion to $3.8 trillion in the first decade of the 21st century or $700 yearly ($7000 for the next decade) from each U.S. resident.

“Our estimate of physical inactivity’s cost is in line with a) the Society of Actuaries estimate that overweight and obesity cost the U.S. $270 billion per year (cost includes increased need for medical care, and loss of economic productivity resulting from excess mortality and disability) and b) the estimated nationwide cost of for physical inactivity and obesity of $507 billion with projected costs exceeding $708 billion in 2008.

“We estimate that if every U.S. individual had 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day obesity, annual U.S. health costs would be reduced by approximately 4 percent ($100 billion out of $2.4 trillion), and additionally we speculate that if all U.S. individuals would approach the physical activity levels of U.S. Amish, obesity would be reduced approximately 8 percent ($200 billion out of $2.4 trillion). Further, physical activity reduces the prevalence of many conditions that are not obesity co-morbidities, so we contend our estimates of physical inactivity are conservative and underestimates.”

The Amish, it should be noted, engage in more physical activity than the average American because they largely get around under their own power.

“Forget the standard-issue health and fitness resolutions that include joining a gym, going to yoga and trading meatball subs for white-meat turkey,” the Los Angeles Times reported after a study on Amish activity was reported in 2004. “It may just be that the best way to get in shape is to plow the back 40, toss a few bales of hay, and wash buckets of wet clothes by hand.

“Call it the Amish paradox. An exercise science professor has discovered that a pocket of Old Order Amish folks in Ontario, Canada, has stunningly low obesity levels, despite a diet high in fat, calories and refined sugar – exactly the stuff doctors tell us not to eat.”

Though the Amish study was about fitness and health, Times reporter Jeannine Stein tried to make it about that which is likely of most interest to upscale readers of the California newspaper – appearances.

“They’re at a paltry 4 percent obesity rate, compared to a whopping 31 percent in the general U.S. population, which, as we all know, is getting fatter by the minute,” she wrote. “This group of Amish manages to keep its overweight levels low despite a diet that includes meat, potatoes, gravy, cakes, pies and eggs. So what’s their secret? Exercise, people. Exercise.”

The Amish get that exercise because it is part of their lifestyle. The trend among Americans in general has been the opposite for years. They get around ever less under their own power and ever more under motor power.

While the country’s population has grown by about 63 percent since 1970, Federal Highway Administration records show the number of vehicle miles traveled per year has grown by about 250 percent. 

“Americans Spend 70 Billion Hours Behind the Wheel,” the American Automobile Association (AAA) reported after its last five-year survey in 2019. The numbers slumped with the pandemic lockdowns in 2020, but now look to be back to where they were in 2019 when AAA said that “each week, drivers travel more than 220 miles. Add it up and Americans drive an average of 11,498 miles each year- the equivalent of making two roundtrip drives from San Francisco to Washington, D.C.”

AAA was worried about the increased “exposure to risks on the roadway….Longer time behind the wheel could lead to issues such as fatigue, distraction, and impatience for drivers, which are all contributing factors for vehicle crashes. Drivers need to stay alert and focused on the key task at hand, driving. This can save your life and the lives of your passengers and people with whom you share the road.”

But accidents aren’t the only risk of all that driving. Driving more while moving around less with muscle power increases the risks of early death, and Americans are moving less than ever.

The sedentary lifestyle

The CDC reports more than 75 percent of Americans fail to meet minimum, recommended physical activity guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity, and that bar is set pretty low at 22 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per day (or 150 minutes per week) and moderate muscle exercise at least twice per week.

Meanwhile, American government bureaucrats and politicians continue to design transportation systems ever more for motor vehicles and ever less for people, the very thing the 2012 study warned against.

“Physical activity, food, and reproduction are some of the minimal requirements for life,” those scientists wrote. “They evolved not as choices, but as requirements for individual and species survival. Modern humans have been able to engineer most physical activity out of daily life. Humans now have a choice not to be physically active.”

A majority would appear to like it this way. A majority appear happy to turn their backs on the long history of human evolution and ignore the fact that doing so diminishes both the quality of life and the length of lifespans.

This is a significant problem in a country where discussions of “health care” focus solely on medical treatments and medical insurance and ignore the bigger problem of the unwillingness of Americans to take the necessary steps to improve their own health.

“…The body rapidly maladapts to insufficient physical activity, and if continued, results in substantial decreases in both total and quality years of life,” the researchers wrote. “Taken together, conclusive evidence exists that physical inactivity is one important cause of most chronic diseases. In addition, physical activity primarily prevents, or delays, chronic diseases, implying that chronic disease need not be an inevitable outcome during life.”

Less than a decade later, Covid-19 came along to finish off hundreds of thousands of those who’d acquired chronic diseases. With the arrival of a new and then novel virus, American medical officials and politicians were quick to order the country’s citizens to don masks and get vaccinated.

They remain loathe, however, to tell Americans to get off their asses and get moving because despite three years of preaching about “listen to the science” even those trained in the sciences either refuse to listen or don’t want to talk about this particular science.

“Conclusive and overwhelming scientific evidence, largely ignored and prioritized as low, exists for physical inactivity as a primary and actual cause of most chronic diseases. Thus, longer-term health was also engineered out with the successful removal of physical activity as a necessity for immediate survival,” the researchers wrote in 2012.

Now, 11 years later, nothing has changed.

This didn’t happen by accident. It happened in part because the American medical community sat silent and let it happen.

A cynic might almost come to the conclusion that it happened because there is a lot more money to be made in selling people cars and trucks, and drugs and medical treatments, than in truly trying to get them healthy, and more votes to be gained by promising them government-funded health care than in telling them they themselves need to do part of the heavy lifting required to actually stay healthy.










2 replies »

  1. I agree with TM’s reply. I see more young people using surgeries & medications to lose weight. Some have gone on to learn to enjoy exercise & embrace the freedom while others may be thin but don’t look healthy. I’m glad I had P.E. In school, lack of electronics and a zest for adventure. Most of my fit friends have obese children. As a nurse, I see too many people blame age on illness when it is actually weight that is killing them. And they are young. I always enjoy your articles.

  2. A lot of valid points. Fitness is the combination of an intellectual process, a training program, and the use of nutritional knowledge (plus good luck and good genes). The application of which all requires time. Unfortunately, the children of the US are being set up for failure; this is indicated by a decrease in expected longevity and a decrease in adult well being. As long as the majority of people are happy with that, nothing will change.

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