Commentary: Obesity plagues America

From the no-duh files comes the latest study on Americans' waistlines, which concludes that the country is getting fatter.

The Trust for America's Health report, while largely a confirmation of what any sighted person already knows, also provides a timely reminder of a big factor driving up the cost of overhauling the nation's health care system.

First, the facts: As late as 1991, no state had an obesity rate greater than 20 percent. Today, every state but Colorado does. Washington ranks 28th, with one in four residents considered obese.

The Baby Boomer generation has a higher rate of obesity compared with previous generations, foretelling a coming crisis for Medicare. The report concluded that the first wave of boomers will mean an increase of 5.2 percent to 16.3 percent in states' populations of obese Medicare patients.

Worse yet, America's youth are in sad shape, portending a crushing burden for the health care system during their lifetimes. The rates of obese and overweight children ages 10 to 17 eclipses the rate of adult obesity in most states. (In Washington, nearly 30 percent of kids fall into that category).

Obese kids, by and large, become obese adults. And obese adults suffer diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease among other persistent conditions at rates far greater than their trimmer friends. Treating such chronic diseases is the black hole of health care costs.

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