Minnesota's obesity rate rises, remains better than neighboring states

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ST. PAUL — Minnesota's obesity rate among adults crept upwards in 2016, but remains below that of its neighbors, according to a national study released Thursday, Aug. 31.

The study, by New Jersey-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found 27.8 percent of adults in Minnesota were obese in 2016, up 1.7 percent from a year prior. That figure is good for 18th out of the country's 50 states and District of Columbia.

South Dakota ranked 24th with 29.6 percent, Wisconsin was 29th (30.7 percent), North Dakota was 36th (31.9 percent) and Iowa was 39th (32 percent).

Minnesota was joined by Colorado, Washington and West Virginia in seeing obesity rates rise from 2015 to 2016, while Kansas was the only state or district to have its obesity rate fall, according to the study.

Colorado adults were the least obese with 22.3 percent while West Virginia posted the highest numbers with 37.7 percent.

Researchers from the Minnesota Department of Health have found economic well-being affects obesity, with those who rarely worry about having enough money for food and housing have significantly lower obesity rates.

"Living without safe, stable and secure housing puts a lot of stress on people," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota health commissioner. "People in that stressful situation end up worrying about a whole variety of things that people with secure housing don't have to worry about. That stress is toxic, and it interferes with people's ability to get out and be active and have access to healthy foods. Those factors in turn greatly impact how well we eat and how much we move."

Despite the high numbers that have increased over the past 26 years, researchers with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said the percentages show an overall leveling off of obesity rates in recent years. However, 25 states have obesity rates of at least 30 percent, with five states exceeding 35 percent, according to the study.