Studies Show 50% of Brownsville Population Falls into Obese Category


POSTED: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 3:50pm

UPDATED: Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 9:51am

BROWNSVILLE - Obesity rates nationwide are catching up to our high numbers, here locally, in the lower valley.

While there have been measures to combat the extreme battle of the bulge in Brownsville, our obesity rates are still way too high according to local health officials.

About eight out of ten people you see walking down the streets of Brownsville are either overweight or obese and about 50% of the population actually falls directly into the obese category.

This is where a person’s body mass index, a formula calculated according to one's weight and height, is over 30. The formula used to calculate the BMI helps medical professionals get an accurate idea of a person's body fat.

Carrying an excessive amount of unhealthy weight can lead to a slew of other medical conditions associated with being overly fat.

Here in our area, diabetes is prevalent, greater than the rest of the nation, with about 30% of the population suffering from the disease.

"Obviously for everyone who lives with diabetes in an uncontrolled situation, meaning not eating proper foods to help control it, not staying on medications at a level that controls it, not getting physical activity, they can progress to a state where kidneys start to fail and have to go on dialysis," says Dr. Belinda Reininger, a UTB Associate Professor of Behavioral Science.

From a health stand point, clearly this is not desirable, but it also hits the pocketbook hard too. Dr Reininger says that in comparison to years past, people would get diabetes and other health conditions related to obesity as they got older. These days, people who are supposed to be in the prime of their lives, 30-40 years old are falling into extremely poor health due to obesity so they're faced with high healthcare costs earlier in life and have to deal with serious health issues longer, if lifestyle changes aren't made.

So we know here locally that the adult obesity population is about 20% higher than the national average, but what about our children? In a new report published Wednesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows childhood obesity rates are up nationwide. Here in deep, South Texas, those numbers are even more alarming.

"Data collected here locally and across the state, shows that for example our fourth graders in 2004-2005 were at a much higher rate of obesity then other parts of the state," says Dr. Reininger.

While parents may think it's just a little lingering baby fat, that pudge can potentially stay with a kid for years to come.

"There's a misconception that children in their early ages can have, can carry some extra weight and they will grow out of it, but research actually shows that, that's not true. Children who are overweight in their younger years, most of the time remain into their adult years," says Dr. Reininger.

So what are the factors leading to obesity here in the lower valley?

For one, the poverty level, according to Dr. Reininger. People often choose unhealthy foods because they are less expensive; that in combination with lack of exercise are the two big contributors to our local population people packing on the pounds.

"We, in Brownsville, will be enhanced from an economic perspective, from an active living perspective, healthy eating perspective if we can start shifting the approach our families take, our exercise patterns and if we can put this together, we're going to see a healthier population. " says Dr. Reininger.

To calculate your Body Mass Index click on the site below.

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My opinion is that obesity in South Texas is higher than in other states, partly because sinced there is more poverty, there are more people on food stamps. People receiving food stamps aren't particularly careful about what foods they buy. I've seen the grocery carts. They are filled with junk food. Yes, I believe it's ultimately the choices we, ourselves make, that make us overweight or not; but the government has much blame as well. I say, ban certain food items when using the Lone Star.

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