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Obesity and poverty in America

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Poverty and obesity are both very serious problems in the US—and there happens to be a link between the two. From 1986 to 2002, adults in the lowest income and education groups had consistently higher BMI (body mass index) than did adults in highest income and education groups. US counties with poverty rates higher than 35 percent have obesity rates 145 percent greater than those in wealthier areas.

There are several possible contributing factors. Those living in poverty are less able to afford a gym membership and may not have as much access to parks and athletic facilities. Also, poorer areas tend to be more violent and have more crime, which may deter people from going outside much. Poverty-dense areas tend to lack quality, fresh food. The inexpensive alternatives tend to be low in nutritional value and high in preservatives, fats, salts and refined sugar.

There are serious economic costs tied to obesity. Obesity-related chronic disease accounts for 70 percent of US health costs, costing $190 billion in annual medical costs. To learn more about these costs and the link between poverty and obesity, please take a look at this infographic.

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