By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY
(USA TODAY) - South Carolina's obesity rate is the 8th highest in the nation, according to new government data.
Mississippi has the highest obesity rate with 34.9% of state residents who are roughly 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight, and Colorado has the lowest rate at 20.7%.
The South has the highest percentage of people (29.5%) who are too heavy, followed by the Midwest (29%), Northeast (25.3%) and West (24.3%). No state has an obesity rate of less than 20%, the findings show.
South Carolina was at 30.8%, tied with Indiana.
This report is based on 2011 state-by-state obesity data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in which people self-report their height and weight. Because people tend to underreport their weight, the percentage of people who are obese is probably higher than the statistics indicate. The statistics are from Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data.
CDC data from another, more rigorous study in which people are weighed and measured indicate that about 36% of U.S. adults are obese. Extra weight raises the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other problems.
The new study does not offer an overall obesity rate for the country, but breaks down rates by state.
The four heaviest states after Mississippi: Louisiana (33.4%); West Virginia (32.4%); Alabama (32%) and Michigan (31.3%).
The states with the lowest obesity rates after Colorado: Hawaii (21.8%); Massachusetts (22.7%); (tie) District of Columbia and New Jersey (23.7%); California (23.8%).
For the first time this year, the methodology used for the state data incorporated households that use only cellphones and changes were made in the criteria to determine which respondents should be included in the analysis so this year's data cannot be compared to state statistics from previous years.
"Overall the obesity rate remains high, and it shows that more concerted efforts need to be invested in by states to make healthy choices available," says Heidi Blanck, acting director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.
Obesity is "a major health problem that translates into higher health care costs and poorer quality of life," says Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health, a non-profit group that analyzed the state-by-state data along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
"We still have a regional concentration of obesity, especially in the South. Eight of the ten heaviest states are in the South," he says.