Public policy has been slow to make a dent in the obesity epidemic, which turns out to be “a lot more deadly than previously thought.” But a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control shows that Iowa is one of eighteen states where obesity among low-income preschoolers declined by a statistically significant amount from 2008 through 2011. An estimated 14.4 percent of low-income two- to four-year-olds in Iowa were obese in 2011. Iowa Department of Public Health officials credited several programs with helping to reverse the trend.
Adult obesity is still a major health problem, according to the latest “F as in Fat” report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Iowa had the twelfth-highest adult obesity rate in the country at 30.4 percent in 2012. The sort-of good news was that for the first time in decades, obesity rates held steady in most states. But it’s depressing to see that the adult obesity rate exceeds 20 percent in even the “healthiest” state of Colorado now. As recently as 1991, not a single state had an obesity rate that high.
Speaking to Radio Iowa about the new obesity estimates, Iowa Department of Public Health Director Mariannette Miller-Meeks had sensible advice:
“People don’t have to go out and do a programmed physical aerobics program for 30 minutes or an hour or two hours a day. […] Just eating less, a plant slant to your diet, and trying to get in 30 minutes of exercise a day.”
Mark my words: the Iowa Farm Bureau and other groups representing industrial agriculture will go nuts over Dr. Miller-Meeks encouraging Iowans to bring “a plant slant” to their diet, especially if she runs for Congress a third time in Iowa’s second district. But here’s an inconvenient truth for Big Ag: peer-reviewed research shows that “meat consumption is associated with obesity” in U.S. adults.
Here’s the second inconvenient truth: even if everyone ate responsibly and exercised regularly, Americans would be more prone to obesity because of exposure to certain chemicals, such as the endocrine disruptors Bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates, and some organotins used in pesticides. Long-term, low-level exposure to the prevalent herbicide atrazine can cause insulin resistance and obesity too (click here for an explanation of that research in layman’s terms).
Three years ago, a White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity called on federal and state agencies to “prioritize research into the effects of possibly obesogenic chemicals.” That won’t happen in my lifetime, at least not in Iowa.
P.S.- For anyone wondering, Iowa Department of Public Health Medical Director Dr. Patricia Quinlisk warns against ingesting a tapeworm as a weight-loss method.