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Utah is the eighth least obese state in the nation, but it has not escaped the national trend of growing girth.
In 2007, 22 percent of Utah adults reported being obese, compared with 21 percent two years ago and 15 percent a decade ago, according to a new government survey reported Thursday.
New separate data from the Utah Department of Health shows little progress among children, either. Twelve percent of elementary students are overweight and 10 percent are obese, about the same as in 2006. The numbers were calculated by measuring the height and weight of 4,000 first-, third- and fifth-graders earlier this year.
The data also shows Utah children get fatter as they get older, particularly between third and fifth grade. For example, 11 percent of the younger children were obese compared to 13.5 percent in fifth grade.
"I think it has to do with less activity and probably more consumption of what they call energy-dense foods like pop and candy," said Michael Friedrichs, an epidemiologist in the state Health Department's Bureau of Health Promotion.
Nationally, about 26 percent of adults were obese in 2007. The South remains the nation's fattest region, with Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee leading the way with more than 30 percent of adults in each state tipping the scales.
Colorado was the least obese, with about 19 percent fitting that category in a random survey last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why is the South so heavy? The traditional Southern diet - high in fat and fried food - may be part of the answer, said William Dietz, who heads CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.
The South also has a large concentration of rural residents and black women - two groups that tend to have higher obesity rates, he said.
Colorado, meanwhile, is a state with a reputation for exercise. It has plentiful biking and hiking trails, and an elevation that causes the body to labor a bit more, Dietz said.
Obesity is based on the body mass index, a calculation using height and weight. A 5-foot-9-inch adult who weighs 203 pounds would have a BMI of 30, which is considered the threshold for obesity.
CDC officials believe the telephone survey of 350,000 adults offers conservative estimates of obesity rates, because it's based on what respondents said about their height and weight. Men commonly overstate their height and women often lowball their weight, health experts say.
* HEATHER MAY contributed to this report.
These are the 10 states with the highest levels of adult obesity, according to a 2007 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
No. 1. Mississippi, 32.0 percent
No. 2 Alabama, 30.3
No. 3 Tennessee, 30.1
No. 4 Louisiana, 29.8
No. 5 West Virginia, 29.5
No. 6 Arkansas, 28.7
No. 7 South Carolina, 28.4
No. 8 Georgia, 28.2
No. 9 Oklahoma, 28.1
No. 10 Texas, 28.1
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention