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One-third of Pennsylvanians considered obese

Nearly one third of adults in Pennsylvania and a quarter of those in New Jersey are considered obese and at increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, according to The State of Obesity, a report released this morning by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The annual report was previously titled F As in Fat.

In the Keystone State, the percentage of adults burdened with worrisome weight has nearly doubled in the last two decades. Since 1995, it has risen from almost 16 percent to 30 percent. In the Garden State during the same period, the proportion rose from 12 percent to 26 percent.

The good news: During the last three years, the numbers have stabilized. The nation is making some headway in its fight on fat. The report singled out Philadelphia for reducing childhood obesity by 6.5 percent between 2007 and 2013.

"Obesity remains one of the most significant epidemics our country has faced, contributing to millions of preventable illnesses and billions of dollars in avoidable health-care costs," said Richard Hamburg, CEO of Trust for America's Health, the nonprofit health advocacy organization that provided the research for the report.

"These new data suggest we are making some progress, but there's more yet to do," Hamburg said.

Obesity, defined as a body-mass index of 30 or more, last year created a $147 billion drain on the national economy, according to the report. Diabetes alone consumes one of every five health-care dollars in the United States, and each diabetic pays about $8,000 a year more in medical expenses on average than someone without the disease. The rate of diabetes in the states closely mirrors the rate of obesity.

According to the report, Louisiana had the highest rate of adult obesity, with 36.2 percent of its residents considered obese, and the fifth-highest rate of diabetes. Mississippi was fourth-highest in obesity, and No. 1 in diabetes.

Colorado had the lowest rate of obesity at 20.2 percent.  Pennsylvania sat solidly in the middle of the pack, coming in at No. 24; New Jersey fared better at No. 41.

Why does obesity remain so high?

The report points to the usual suspects: poor diets and a general lack of physical activity. Overweight children become overweight adults.

Nearly 30 million children live in "food deserts" where households have limited access to healthy nutrition due to cost or distance from an adequately stocked market, according to the report.

High school students now spend nearly twice as much time playing electronic games as they did in 2003, according to the data. In Pennsylvania, 43 percent of high schoolers said they played video games more than three hours a day; nearly 28 percent of the students said they watched TV more than three hours a day. There were no data available for New Jersey on the topic.

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