Obesity More Common in Rural US Due to Diet Rich in Fat and Less Activity

First Posted: Sep 15, 2012 07:02 AM EDT

Nearly six percent of the global population is in United states but hosts a third of world's obese. According to a study the Americans living in the rural areas are more likely to be obese when compared to the cities.

The study by University of Kansas was published in Journal of Rural health. Based on the data garnered by the National Center for Health Statistics and this is the first study in more than three decades to use measured heights and weights. 

According to Christie Befort, Ph.D., assistant professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Kansas Medical Center, cultural diet and physical isolation are the two significant reasons why rural residents are more likely overweight.

"There is a definite cultural diet in rural America, full of rich, homemade foods including lots of meat and dessert," said Befort, who led the study. The study, which also examined demographic and lifestyle factors, found that rural Americans typically consume a diet high in fat.

"Access is often about travel time in a rural area, but it can also be that there's no place to go -- literal physical isolation," said Befort. "It's tough to get to a gym if you live outside of a town without one."

They were amazed to notice that the rural-urban obesity disparity existed in younger Americans, ages 20-39, but not in older age groups. 

"Physical activity is now needed to compensate for diet and technology," said Befort. "That requires cultural change because rural areas typically don't have a culture of physical activity as leisure time."

The researchers included several factors such as diet, physical activity, age, race, gender, and education. Despite considering these factors, rural residents were more likely to be obese.

"Living in a rural area isn't always recognized as a category for obesity-related health disparities but, according to our study, it should be," said Befort.

"We simply cannot ignore the link between obesity and poverty, and the disproportionate impact this is having on rural America," said Alan Morgan, the National Rural Health Association's CEO. "If we truly want to decrease health care costs and improve the nation's health status, we are going to have to start viewing obesity as a top-tier public health concern for rural Americans."

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