HATTIESBURG, Ms (AP) - Is fat the new normal? It appears that may be the case in Mississippi.
WalletHub recently released its 2017 Fattest States in America list, and Mississippi is number one. Dr. William Whitehead, a surgeon with the Hattiesburg Clinic, said he isn't surprised about the report.
"It just reaffirms what we've seen in prior surveys and analysis of our population," Dr. Whitehead said.
According to the report, Mississippi has the second highest percentage of obese adults and the highest percentage of obese children.
"So we call it the loaded gun theory," said Dr. Ralph Carson, a consultant for Pine Grove and Hattiesburg Clinic for bariatric surgery. "Who your parents are provide the ammunition, so you have a tendency and then the environment pulls the trigger. So in the south, there is a greater tendency because of genetics and the kind of trigger is there, too, because of the environment."
According to the data from the Centers for Disease Control, more than seven in ten U.S. adults aged 20 and older were either overweight or obese in 2016. Dr. Whitehead said the obesity epidemic is apparent in the Pine Belt.
"All you have to do is ride up and down Hardy Street and see the all you can eat places," Dr. Whitehead said.
Dr. Whitehead and Dr. Carson host weight loss surgery seminars almost every month at Forrest General Hospital or at the Hattiesburg Clinic. The seminars give anyone interested in bariatric surgery or other procedures to help with the weight loss process.
Dr. Whitehead said the number of individuals interested in those types of procedures has increased over the years.
"There's no question about the numbers, they speak to that," Dr. Whitehead said. "There's a significant number increase in the availability of the surgical procedures and the public's interest in doing that. There's a wide variety of tools that will help, some more invasive than others."
To identify the fattest states, analysts compared each state across 19 metrics, including overweight and obese population, sugary-beverage consumption and obesity-related health care costs.
"These are important things that patients need to understand, maintaining a normal wight with exercise, no alcohol, no tobacco, reduces your risk of a whole host of medical problems that can be fatal," Dr. Whitehead said.
You can view the full interactive report here.