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Thursday, July 31, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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Editorial: State's obesity epidemic a nightmare

Last Modified: Saturday, August 24, 2013 8:05 PM

Imagine a malady that has reached epidemic proportions by affecting more than 3 in 10 Louisiana residents.

Alas, it’s no dream, it’s a nightmare. Almost 35 percent of the state’s adult population is considered obese, according to a report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The report ‘‘F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2013’’ ranks Louisiana No. 1 in adult obesity, surpassing Mississippi that held that inglorious crown for the previous eight years.

There are simple causes and effect. Though some people are pre-disposed because of heredity, obesity’s main culprits are unhealthy foods consumed in large quantities and a sedentary lifestyle.

Louisiana cookbooks heavy with fried food delicacies are a contributing factor. All-you-can-eat buffets where patrons pay, then strive to get their money’s worth can be a factor. So is the state’s climate that limits many outdoor activities from May through September.

All of this leads to such deadly health issues as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis and sleep apnea — and in many cases either premature death or a severely limited lifestyle.

“There’s been generation after generation of lack of motivation and proper eating habits that have just been conditioned in people,” said Dr. Clint Guillory, an emergency room physician in Louisiana. “I remember when I was growing up, we’d run outside and play baseball. Now people sit in front of the computer and play video games.’’

Svetlana Gavrilova, a registered dietitian supervisor at E.A. Conway Medical Center, said obesity has become an accepted station in life in Louisiana.

It’s not unique to our state.

The report says 13 states have adult obesity rates higher than 30 percent, 41 states have rates of at least 25 percent and every state is above 20 percent. In 1980, no state’s obesity rate topped 15 percent, according to the report; in 1991, no state was above 20 percent; in 2000, no state was above 25 percent; and, in 2007, only Mississippi was above 30 percent.

That’s why initiatives like the Royal Magnolia Community Learning Center Garden are a vital tool in combating obesity. The garden, funded by grants by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation and the Partnership for a Healthier Southwest Louisiana and tended by the Greater St. Mary Baptist Church congregation, will serve as a working classroom to teach Southwest Louisiana residents had to grow their own fruits and vegetables and how to incorporate them in healthy cooking.

The Partnership also provides other information on diets, healthy cooking and exercise to promote healthy living.

Knowledge is power in turning the tide of obesity. The report noted that more than 35 percent of adults ages 26 and older who did not graduate high school are obese, compared to 21.3 percent of those who graduated from college or technical college.

All of this, though, circles back to individuals and the choices they make regarding their health and quality of life.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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