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Living large: Obesity on rise among rich folk
By Thomas Caywood
Tuesday, May 3, 2005 - Updated: 09:23 AM EST

The rate of obesity among Americans earning more than $60,000 a year is growing three times faster than the rate among the poor, according to a study released yesterday at a meeting of the American Heart Association.

``Sedentary lifestyles and restaurants are the two big things that affect that group the most,'' said Marc O'Meara, a dietitian at Brigham and Women's Hospital. ``The portion sizes just keep growing.''


Obesity rates are worst among poor Americans because their diets are less likely to include nutritious but costlier foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

University of Iowa researchers pored over a government health database to match weight to family incomes.

In the early 1970s, just under 23 percent of people with incomes below $25,000 were obese compared with about 10 percent of Americans earning above $60,000. Three decades later the obesity gap has thinned: 27 percent of the wealthier classes are fat, compared with 33 percent of the poor.

Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Obesity Center at Children's Hospital Boston, said he wasn't at all surprised by the study.

``Obesity prevalence has increased so fast among the poor that it's now almost 50 percent,'' he said. ``Since it's so high, it can't keep increasing at a high level. There's not as much room to go up.''

But affluent people apparently are taking up the slack - and loosening their belts.

``They are catching up,'' Ludwig said. ``Our environment is so unsupportive of a healthful lifestyle, while the poor are most susceptible, everyone is being affected.''