NEW ORLEANS - A new study of obesity finds that by 2030, about two-thirds of people in both Mississippi and Louisiana will be obese, putting them among the worst seven states.
And that could cause skyrocketing health care costs, a rise in illness, and early death. So how do experts say we should combat the problem?
And why are we on this multiplying path? One reason is genetics.
"There's documented cases where individuals don't have a true genetic obesity disease, but they're so close and so borderline that those individuals really can not lose weight easily and so the cards are stacked against them," explained Dr. Melinda Sothern of the LSU Health Sciences Center's School of Public Health. Dr. Sothern is an expert in exercise physiology and has published her obesity research as well as books to help children and families with weight problems.
So what are some of the genetic metabolism and behavioral conditions?
"It could run the spectrum from, they have some kind of problem with feeling full when they're eating. It could be that their brain chemicals don't recognize when they're eating that they should stop eating. It could be that their brain chemicals make them hungry all the time. It could be that only when they eat certain foods they become hungry. It could be when they exercise it doesn't cause them to lose weight as well as others," she added.
Pregnant mothers who overeat, have diabetes, smoke or even don't get enough fish oil and don't breast feed, begin a child's genetic obesity path. Obesity is multi-faceted. Each person's brain and body genetics call for different solutions and management. Some studies have looked at medications for attention deficit disorder to help regulate brain chemistry in people who overeat.
But there are key factors that can help turn this growing obesity rate around.
"Everybody's recipe for maintaining a healthy weight is unique to that individual and that's because your metabolism, your physiology, your neurochemicals (brain chemicals) are all unique to you," said Dr. Sothern.
"This is what I want everybody to hear loud and clear, portion size. We have been tricked into portion size. We have been tricked into believing that what is served on our plate, no matter where it is, whether it's inside or outside the home, in school, any kind of event, (is normal). In fact, a portion size is about a half cup for most things, which is about (the size of) a woman's fist," she said.
Studies show adults and children who don't sleep enough are inclined to be overweight. "We now know that (lack of sleep) contributes to obesity. So there are study after studies, especially in children who don't get enough sleep are more inclined to be overweight. Adults who don't get enough sleep are more inclined to be overweight," said Dr. Sothern. "The key is to get at least eight hours of sleep if you're an adult and 10 hours if you're a child."
New studies show if you live near a fast food or convenient store you're more likely to be overweight.
"Every child out there who lives near a fast food restaurant or convenient store, they have a much greater risk of developing obesity than the child who lives near a grocery store that offers fruits and vegetables, a farmer's market, a community garden, and there's gardening in the school. All of these things are shown to increase fruits and vegetable intake in the child and are associated with less overweight children."
And doctors now say there's scientific evidence to bring back the family dinner.
"You're less likely to over eat. You're more likely to discuss situations and problems surrounding your environment that may be contributing to stress, which may be related to obesity. And if you leave the food in the kitchen, you're less likely to grab seconds and over eat the portions as well."
The study suggests that if obesity rates continue as is, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and arthritis, could increase 10 times by 2020, then double by 2030.
But costs could go down by reducing the average body mass index (BMI) of the residents in each state, by just 5 percent by 2030.
For the complete study: