Minnesota obesity epidemic? New study says half of us on track to be really fat by 2030

Is this a time-lapse of Minnesota youth? A new study suggests it is.
Is this a time-lapse of Minnesota youth? A new study suggests it is.

The Twin Cities may be among the most healthy metros in the country, but a new study concludes Minnesota is on pace to be really fat in the not-so-distant future.

Get ready to suck in your gut: A new study by the Trust for American's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds that at the current rate, nearly 55 percent of Minnesotans will be obese by 2030.

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The most recent numbers (from 2011) indicate that about 26 percent of state residents are obese, meaning they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) above 30.

The 2011 figure -- which is actually down slightly from Minnesota's obesity rate in 2010 -- pegs us as the 36th-most-obese state overall. Wisconsin, with a nearly 28-percent obesity rate, is a little big fatter and projects to remain so over the next couple decades. Must be all that beer and cheese. (Mississippi is currently the fattest state, with a roughly 35-percent obesity rate.)

Joking aside, researchers' methodology for the 2030 projection is unclear, and they seem strangely reticent to provide details. From Fox News:

Trust for America's Health officials said the projections were based on state-by-state surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1999 through 2010. They said their projections are reasonable.

But their outlook suggests that even in the thinnest state - Colorado, where about one-fifth of residents are obese - 45 percent are predicted to be obese by 2030...

... The report didn't detail why some states' rates were expected to jump more than others.

CDC officials declined to comment on the new report.

So it looks like you'll have to take their word for it, but if you do, some startling consequences follow. From the report:

By 2030, obesity-related health care costs in Minnesota could climb by 15.7 percent, which could be the 26th highest increase in the country. Nationally, nine states could see increases of more than 20 percent, with New Jersey on course to see the biggest increase at 34.5 percent. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., could see increases between 15 percent and 20 percent.

In the United States, medical costs associated with treating preventable obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase by $48 billion to $66 billion per year by 2030, and the loss in economic productivity could be between $390 billion and $580 billion annually by 2030. Although the medical cost of adult obesity in the United States is difficult to calculate, current estimates range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year.

The report goes on to note that "If BMIs were lowered by 5 percent, Minnesota could save 7.3 percent in health care costs, which would equate to savings of $11,630,000,000 by 2030." Beyond dollars and cents, reducing BMIs would spare 127,368 Minnesotans from type 2 diabetes, 111,006 from heart disease and stroke, and 105,240 from hypertension.

Researchers say that if we are to avoid a dystopian future of fatness, we need to begin with the children.

"We know a lot more about how to prevent obesity than we did 10 years ago," Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH, says in the study. "This report also outlines how policies like increasing physical activity time in schools and making fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable can help make healthier choices easier. Small changes can add up to a big difference."

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