Obesity is a serious epidemic in the United States. Over one third of the population has a Body Mass Index (BMI) score greater than or equal to 30, which is considered not just overweight, but obese. Obesity can take a significant toll on one’s overall health and longevity.
As of 2016, the states with the greatest share of obese people include Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia, where 35% or more of the population are obese. States in the West and Northeast tend to have healthier lifestyles, with obesity rates of 25 to 30%. Within any state, no matter where it’s located, there are regions where residents are far more likely to have avoided obesity.
> Least obese county: Santa Cruz County
> County obesity rate: 23.0%
> Adults who do not exercise: 17.7% (below nat’l avg.)
> Adults with diabetes: 8.0% (below nat’l avg.)
> Statewide obesity rate: 26.8% (17th lowest)
24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found the counties with the lowest obesity rates in each state. Eagle County in Colorado is the least obese county in all of the country, with 11.8% of the population considered obese. Only 9.4% of the population is physically inactive — less than half of the national average of 22% — and just 3.3% of the population has diabetes.
Colorado has the lowest obesity rate in the country — only 21.3% of Colorado’s population is obese. Hawaii and Massachusetts round out the three states with the lowest shares of adults with a BMI of 30 or greater. Five out of the top six counties with the lowest obesity rates reside within states on the West Coast, more than likely due to the region’s emphasis on outdoor recreational activities and healthier dietary choices.
The four counties with the highest obesity rates are among the southern-most states, with the exception of West Virginia. The southern states have the greatest obesity rates, which in addition to higher rates of physical inactivity, may be due to regional eating habits. Some elements of Southern cooking tend to involve fried food that’s high in fat.
Poor counties, where access to healthy food is minimal, are especially at risk of obesity. The least obese county in Arkansas, Benton County, still has the highest obesity rate among all of the counties on this list, with 30% of the population suffering from obesity. Arkansas is plagued with “food deserts” which, depending on whether the area is urban or rural, means residents are at least 1 to 10 miles away from fresh produce and other healthful foods.
Perhaps as a result of the local cuisine, and certainly a result of food deserts and effects of poverty on eating habits, southern states have a higher prevalence of obesity. Not surprisingly, these states also have a high rate of diabetes, which is strongly correlated with obesity. In fact, seven southern states have diabetes rates that exceed the national average of 9%.
The top 15 counties with the lowest obesity rates also have diabetes rates that fall below the national average. In addition, the percentage of physically inactive people in these counties doesn’t exceed 17.9%, well below the national average of 22%.
Read on to see which county in your state has the least reports of obesity.
To identify the least obese county in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 2013 county-level obesity rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. National and Statewide obesity rates, physical inactivity rates, diabetes prevalence from 2013 are also retrieved from the CDC.