We have often discussed obesity rates in the world on this blog and their causes. However, a new report makes an interesting finding. First, not too surprising, it says that Americans are fatter than we previously thought. Second, and more surprising, the reason for the underreporting is that people think or say that they are taller than they are. The study findings were presented by researcher Zachary Ward of the Harvard School of Public Health.
The new findings are based on the measurements of doctors as opposed to the measurements given by patients. So patients do not understate their weight nearly as much as they overstate their height.
Using the new methodology, researchers found that 49 states had an obesity rate of 30 percent or higher. Only Hawaii had an obesity rate under 30 percent, and a few states, including Louisiana and Mississippi, had obesity rates over 40 percent. Previously, it was thought that most states were below thirty percent.
The errors were due to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relying on telephone surveys that asked people their weights and heights. They then plugged those dubious figures into a calculation of body mass indexes (BMIs). This Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) reported that the overall obesity rate in the United States of 28 percent.
Another study called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), put the overall U.S. obesity rate is 34 percent. While NHANES used data from doctors, it did not allow for state-level obesity estimates.
The new study matched up the data from BRFFS and NHANES to better estimate actual rates among the states.