Updated: 6/12/2012 12:58 PM ET|
Does being poor make you fat?
Researchers say obesity can often be blamed on a tight budget, not on moral weakness. But one particular skill can help you stay lean on little money.
Your income and social status are written all over your body, Adam Drewnowski says.
Drewnowski is an epidemiologist. He directs the Center for Obesity Research at the University of Washington in Seattle, and he lectures frequently. "I can pretty much guess the income of an audience by the number of obese women in the room," he says.
"If one-third of my audience is obese, I don't think, 'Oh, my God, these are people with weak willpower or who made bad choices.' I say, 'These are women who do not make more than $40,000 a year.'"
Poor women pack on pounds
Several studies, including Drewnowski's, show that poorer Americans are more likely to be obese than those who are wealthier. But when you look deeper into these studies, University of California, Davis, nutritionist Marilyn Townsend says, the difference is mostly among women: Poor women are much, much more prone to obesity than their wealthier counterparts.
The discrepancy between men and women isn't well understood. The drive for status may be what keeps wealthier women thinner, suggests Townsend, who specializes in behavioral change and works with other researchers, including Drewnowski.
Often, the obese are blamed for being morally weak, says a 2010 study in the International Journal of Obesity.
"People say things like, 'Why don't they just make a cheap pot of lentil soup and live on it for a week?'" Drewnowski scoffs. "Obesity is not the result of excessive indulgence; it's a symptom of lower socioeconomic standing in this country."
Lower-cost diets that are high in fat and sugar and lower in nutrients are more often consumed by people with lower education and incomes, Drewnowski says in research published last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In smaller studies in Seattle, Drewnowski has found obesity as low as 6% in wealthy neighborhoods and as high as 30% in poor areas. (Obesity is a body mass index over 30; you can calculate your own body mass here.)
Drewnowski has even linked obesity to grocery stores: Customers of lower-cost Seattle supermarkets were up to 10 times more likely to be obese. As much as 40% of shoppers at cheaper grocery stores, such as Safeway, were overweight, compared with as little as 4% at stores such as Whole Foods.
"The minute you move to an area served by Wal-Mart -- because they place themselves in lower-income areas -- you will be surrounded by obesity," Drewnowski says.
The point is not that a particular store makes you fat or thin but that people who eat cheaply are prone to getting fat. Those who spend more generally are thinner.
There's "almost a straight-line correlation between wealth of the neighborhood and obesity among women," Drewnowski says. The 2012 federal poverty line for a family of four in the Lower 48 states is $22,050; that takes in nearly one in six Americans.
A spreading epidemic
Five years ago, only one state -- Mississippi -- had an obesity rate of more than 30%. But by 2010, 12 states had joined that club, according to a report published last year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America's Health, two nonprofit health advocacy organizations.
America's obesity problem is worst in the South. It's least bad in the Northeast and West. But here's how fast it's growing: The leanest state in 2011, Colorado, with an adult obesity rate of 19.8%, would have been the fattest in 1995. Two decades ago, not one state had a rate above 15%.
The two health advocacy organizations, among others, also link the problem with poverty. Their report says 33% of American adults earning less than $15,000 per year are obese, compared with 24.6% making more than $50,000.
Mississippi, with an obesity rate of 34.4%, is the poorest state in the union. Its poverty rate was 22.4% in 2010, the Census Bureau reported recently.
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Being lazy makes you poor.
Being lazy makes you fat.
Therefore fat and poor are highly correlated.
Jogging is free.
Beans and rice are healthy and cheap.
I have several children and we eat made from scratch food probably 95% of the time, but probably about 25% of my family has a weight problem. I don't see where any one of them eats any more or less than the others except for the thinner ones do seem to eat quite a lot more than the others. From my experience, it seems that there is some genetic reasons for different sizes, but I am sure others have different experiences. We are all different. What works for you may not work for me. If I am overweight and you think I should have to starve in order to be thin, I say if I should do it then so should you. If you wouldn't be able to survive on it then I shouldn't have to either. I am sorry if eating normally causes some to be overweight while others will be of an acceptable weight but to say that if you are predisposed to having a weight problem that you shouldn't be allowed to eat the amount of calories a normal sized person would be able to, that, I think, is just wrong.
@ Guzman Yes I a quit fit I a 6'1" 190 with 6% body fat yes I rode for any year doing at least 50 miles a day in Pittsburgh PA I a also a Kung Fu and Tai hi practitioner and massage therapist along with my daily weight lifting and normal construction work on a Bike at 19MPH is Quite slow in my book I also have done my personal training lasses I did not take the ACE test though because I don't need to pay for it to train myself and friends JERK OR NOT I SPEAK THE TRUTH LOSER!!!! I have never been FAT and NEVER WILL!!!!
Why not call it what it is...laziness...and entitlements. We have free public schools, tuition-free or highly subsidized trade schools (pell grants, etc.) , free day-care in many cases, a monthly check coming in, food stamps, wic.etc. Many more people can get educated if they take advantage of the multitude of services available.. We have unemployment agency reps (some, not all) signing off on unemployment status. Just speaking from first hand personal contact with people and conversations, contrary to what our President has said, there are many out there who work as hard at not finding a job as they would if they had a job..
A rose is a rose is a rose...
sorry......it's their food choices and lack of desire to do the 'work' to eat decently. i can understand why no one is thrilled to take the time to do all the prep work involved...but please don't make excuses. a bag of beans, brown rice, eggs, tuna..these things are cheap.
it's easier, more fun, not to mention tastier to eat junk. you'll never gain a hundred pounds shoving down half a bag of carrots. (also very cheap)
Townsend's solution is simpler and more radical: Revamp SNAP so it can be used to purchase only ingredients -- no prepared foods, prepared ingredients, snacks or soda pop.
There's an idea - another way for the government to control people. No prepared foods for the poor - they should have to slave in the kitchen so they won't be fat. Pretty soon it'll just be a crime to be fat and anyone with a BMI over 30 will be put in jail.
POOR AND FAT BECAUSE OF IT
You have a real problem and it's not because you are poor. You should seek help to overcome your eating disorder and start to enjoy life.............it can be done. Little steps is all that is needed......lose a pound a week and in two years you would be amazed at how you look and feel about yourself.
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