‘The Biggest Loser’ and Georgia’s obesity problem

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THE BIGGEST LOSER -- "1701" Episode 1701 -- Pictured: (l-r) Lauren Clark, Vicki Clark, Hope Williamson, Colby Wright, Luis Hernandez, Roberto Hernandez, Sarah Gilbert, Robert Kidney, Felicia Bufkin, Whitney Clay, Tonsheia Grandison, Britney Anderson, Erin Grace Willett, Richard Hatch, Jacquelyne Kmet, Stephen Kmet -- (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)
The Biggest Loser - Season 17

The cast of ‘The Biggest Loser’ Season 17 (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

The South with its fried chicken, cheese grits and sweet tea is ground zero for America’s obesity epidemic.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised when five Georgians were picked to compete in the most recent season of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” One of them, Colby Wright, a car salesman from K’Ville, a town in South Georgia, will compete for the show’s top title this Monday.

Nearly one-third of adults in the Peach State are obese, recent data from the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows.

Not surprisingly, seven of the 10 states with the highest obesity rates are in the South – where people are more likely to be poorer, less educated and uninsured. (In case you were wondering, Arkansas happens to hold the ignominious title of the nation’s fattest state.)

Overall, obesity rates have remained fairly steady in most states over the past year. But they remain dangerously high, nonetheless.

Here are a few more Georgia facts from the study:

  • Nearly 13 percent of Georgia high school students are obese.
  • An estimated 35 percent of adults suffer from hypertension.
  • There were nearly 130,000 obesity-related cases of cancer in 2010.
  • A projected 1.1 million Georgians will be diagnosed with diabetes by 2030.
  • Currently 11.6 percent of adults have diabetes, up from 5.2 percent in 1990.

“The Biggest Loser” may be entertaining, sure. It is also a glaring reminder of an epidemic that is costing our nation billions of dollars every year. And, more important, it is putting tens of millions of American lives – and the quality of those lives – at risk.

Obesity puts an estimated 78 million Americans at increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other deadly illnesses that kill us too early. (Georgia has the 10th highest rate of diabetes in the nation.)

Indeed, obesity is much more than just a game to entertain us.

You can read the full report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation here.


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