Louisiana Obesity Problem Has More Roots Than Local Rich Food

Aug 20, 2013

Adult obesity rates in Louisiana over time, and compared to the rest of the country.
Credit Trust for America's Health

A national study shows Louisiana is the most obese state in the country. Findings show the cause is more complicated than simply blaming the rich cooking.

Laura Segal is the principal author of a report called “F as in Fat”.

It’s done annually by the non-profit Trust for America’s Health based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It found 34.7 percent of Louisiana residents are obese — up from 12 percent only 20 years ago.

“While the cooking has probably remained the same the portion sizes have grown dramatically," Segal said. "People are eating two to three times as much in a sitting. People are just not being as active as we used to. There’s a lot more screen time. There’s a lot longer commute, and people are eating out a lot more. “ 

Mackie Shilstone is executive director of the Fitness Principle at East Jefferson General Hospital. He says Louisiana is bursting with fast food outlets, but lean on healthy alternatives.

“When we talk about rezoning post-Katrina we have to look for green spaces," Shilstone says. "We’re going to have to find small grocery stores. They’re going to have affordable vegetables, fruits, that are available to families that can be affordable.”

Segal says obesity poses physical problems as well as financial. 

“Forty percent of Baby Boomers in Louisiana are obese," she said. "And that’s going to be a huge cost burden as everyone starts aging into Medicare and obesity-related illnesses.”  

Shilstone advises taking steps to a healthy lifestyle — literally. He says taking small walks a few times a day could lead to big improvements.