BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Obesity has been linked to cancer, heart attacks and stroke. So, it's a naturally a concern when new maps show Louisiana is among the 12 states where at least 30 percent of adults are dangerously overweight. Ten of the most obese states are in the South.
Pennington researcher, Peter Katzmarzyk, Ph.D. said "Some people call it the stroke belt, the diabetes belt, the inactivity belt."
While obesity is most prevalent in the South, it's a nationwide problem experts have been sounding the alarm about for years now. In states like Louisiana, there's been little or no change.
Katzmarzyk isn't surprised. He says, "It's like smoking. Smoking took years and years to tackle." It's taken a little over 50 years, but the number of people who smoke in the U.S. has dropped below 20%. Yet experts say turning the tide on obesity will require the same kind of shift in attitudes. Only this shift will involve food choices and physical activity.
While Katzmarzyc says it may take 25 years or longer to see the kind success stop smoking groups have had, he's not disheartened. He already sees evidence of a change. "Even now you go into a restaurant sometimes and you think I'm going to order the fried catfish. Your friends may look at your kind of funny and oh Phil you should get something baked."
Katzmarzyc says everything from tax credits to lower health insurance premiums could motivate even more people to make changes that keep them at a healthy weight. Incentives aside, most agree any significant drop in the country's obesity numbers rests squarely on the shoulders of individuals.