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Photo credit: Martin Barraud/Getty Images

When you hear about the growing waistline of the United States, study after study, report after report, seems to place special focus on minority communities, particularly African Americans.

According to the CDC:

  • Nearly 60 percent of black women are obese
  • Nearly 38 percent of black men 20 years and over are obese

CDC studies also have shown that obesity rates can vary greatly by geography – for example, the highest rates of obesity tend to be in the South and in the Midwest.

But why? What, or who, is really responsible for these shocking numbers that only seem to be getting worse?

What exactly is obesity?

According to Mayo Clinic, obesity is a complex disorder involving an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity is likely when an individual’s body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher. Your body mass index is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms (kg) by your height in meters (m) squared.

BMI Weight status
Below 18.5            Underweight
18.5-24.9                Normal
25.0-29.9            Overweight
30.0-34.9          Obese (Class I)
35.0-39.9          Obese (Class II)
40.0 +    Extreme obesity (Class III)


What causes obesity?

According to Mayo Clinic, although there are genetic and hormonal influences on body weight, obesity occurs when you eat and drink more calories than you burn through exercise and normal daily activities. Your body stores these extra calories as fat.

Obesity usually results from a combination of causes and contributing factors, including:

  • Family lifestyle. Obesity tends to run in families. That’s not just because of genetics. Family members tend to have similar eating, lifestyle and activity habits. If one or both of your parents are obese, your risk of being obese is increased.
  • Inactivity. If you’re not very active, you don’t burn as many calories. With a sedentary lifestyle, you can easily take in more calories every day than you burn off through exercise and normal daily activities.

For more information about obesity, visit

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