MURRAY — Kentucky is the eighth most obese state in America, according to a study performed by the website ConsumerProtect. 

The study used information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to determine their findings. According to the CDC, their most recent estimates indicate that 30.1% of adults are obese as of 2017. That rate has doubled since 1990, when 15% of the population was classified as obese. This increase comes along with an estimated health care cost ranging from $147 billion to $210 billion annually. 

In 2017, Kentucky saw 34.4% of its citizens classified as obese, making it the eighth most obese state behind West Virginia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Iowa, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas. 

“There are several different factors that can lead to obesity,” said Amy Ferguson, public health director for the Calloway County Health Department. “A lot of times we think about consuming too many calories versus the amount that the body actually needs. A lot of people are sedentary and not very active, and therefore they are not burning the extra calories they are consuming that their body doesn’t naturally use.” 

While Kentucky ranked eighth in overall obesity, it ranked first on ConsumerProtect’s “couch potato index,” with the highest percentage (34.4%) of adults engaging in zero physical activity outside of work, according to the CDC. The state with the least obese adult population was Colorado, and the ConsumerProtect article attributed that to access to outdoor recreation and better eating habits. 

Ferguson said that while exercise and good eating habits are important, there are a lot of other factors that can cause people to gain and maintain weight. Ferguson also said that environmental factors might prevent people in certain geographic locations from being able to engage in exercise. 

“There are different reasons why people aren’t active,” she said. “It could be that they are physically unable to be as active as they need to be. Sometimes our environment in general isn’t the most friendly to getting out and being physically active. Sometimes certain medications can cause unwanted weight gain; steroids would be one example of that. Sometimes people that take steroids can gain weight and it is difficult for them to lose it if they have a medical condition that requires them to take that medication.” 

The last component mentioned was unhealthy eating habits. This metric was based on the percentage of adults eating less than one fruit per day according to the CDC. Here Kentucky is ranked seventh, with 42.7% of Kentuckians not eating at least one piece of fruit a day. 

Ferguson said there are a lot of barriers to good health for many Kentuckians, and that a single cause of high obesity rates in the state is hard to pinpoint. According to information Ferguson provided from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (KCEP), income is a key component to health in the commonwealth. 

“Income is a key social determinant of health as poverty can dramatically limit opportunities for quality housing, safe neighborhoods, healthy food and quality education,” writes Ashley Spalding, Senior Policy Analyst at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. “Individuals with low incomes are less likely to have health insurance and more likely to live in communities with a high density of tobacco retailers and fast food restaurants, a low density of health care providers, poor access to fresh foods and a built environment that is not conducive to physical activity.” 

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