A higher percentage of people in Chattanooga are overweight than in any other city in the U.S., according to a new survey.
Overall, the city ranks as the sixth-fattest town in America, according to a survey released Wednesday by financial website WalletHub.com. The survey looked at three key areas including obesity, weight-related health problems and healthy environment. Memphis came in at No. 2 and Knoxville at No. 10.
Some 40 percent of Chattanoogans are overweight, earning the No. 1 ranking in that category. The city was also second for the percentage of teenagers who are obese (18.6 percent), fourth for the projected obesity rate in 2030 (63.4 percent), fourth on lack of access to healthy foods (15.7 percent), fifth for adults with high blood pressure (37.1 percent), sixth on the percentage of diabetic adults (12.7 percent), sixth for its share of physically inactive adults (32.5 percent), and seventh for the rate of heart disease, bringing it to the overall 6th place ranking.
The least-fat cities included Colorado Springs, Colo., in 96th place, Denver in 97th, Minneapolis in 98th, Portland, Ore., at 99th, and Seattle as the best overall.
Most of the heavier towns on the list are in the South, with Jackson, Miss., rated No. 1.
"Unfortunately, many Southern cities have the highest obesity and overweight rates in the country, which snowball into several alarming health issues," said WalletHub researcher Jill Gonzalez. "Many of these same cities fail to offer their residents healthy environments and amenities that would facilitate a more active lifestyle."
"In the South, we tend to fry everything and load it up with a lot of sides that include a lot of added fats, as well," said Erlanger hospital dietitian Aimee Dyess.
Dyess also blamed the limited availability of health care.
There is a "lack of access to more regular health care checkups and counseling services for weight management," she said. "We have more rural areas, so getting into town might not be occurring regularly."
Gonzalez said she believes tackling the obesity epidemic will require a national effort.
"Since this has become a nationwide epidemic, it's important for authorities and nonprofit organizations to take a more hands-on approach to this problem by reducing the intake of sugar and the unhealthy relationship Americans have with fast food," she said.
Among her suggestions: a "soda tax" to make sugar-laden foods more expensive.
Dietitian Pam Kelle, who runs the local website YourOwnFoodCoach.com, said maybe those who are already leading healthy lives need to do more to reach to those who are not.
"If those numbers are correct, it is time for exercise and movement opportunities to be inclusive," she said. "Maybe promote fun walks, street dances — encourage those of us who embrace healthy eating and living to mentor those who don't."
Dyess said those who are overweight should not be discouraged about the amount of effort it will take to bring their weight back to normal.
"Even a 5 percent change can affect their risk of heart problems," she said. "Don't look at the big, overall numbers. Take it one step at a time in making those changes, incorporate one more serving of fruits and vegetables, or add in a 10-minute walk per day. Those things do add up over time."
Contact staff writer Steve Johnson at 423-757-6673.
FATTEST CITIES IN AMERICA
The Top 10
1. Jackson, Miss.
3. Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark.
4. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
5. Shreveport-Bossier, La.
7. Mobile, Ala.
8. Lafayette, La.
9. Winston-Salem, N.C.
90. Boise, Idaho
91. Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, Calif.
92. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
93. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.
94. Honolulu, Hawaii
95. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass.-H.H.
96. Colorado Springs, Colo.
97. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo.
98. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis.
99. Portland, Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Washington
100. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.
2. Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, Calif
3. Anchorage, Alaska
T-4. Bridgeport-Stamford-Nowalk, Conn.,
T-4. Asheville, N.C.
96. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Mich.
97. Honolulu, Hawaii
98. San Jose-Sannyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
99. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
1. Mobile, Ala.
2. Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
4. Jackson, Miss.
T-93. Salt Lake City, Utah
T-93. Colorado Springs, Colo.
95. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis.
96. Tuscon, Ariz.
97. Provo-Orem, Utah
98. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.