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Your waist in maps


The Daily Yonder has a set of great maps up comparing different diet behaviors (fast food spending, soda drinking, meat consumption and so on) with obesity.


The most interesting, perhaps, is the map showing fruit and vegetable consumption. To my eye, it looks more like the obesity map than, say, the fast food map does. It's a good reminder that what makes people heavy is the consumption of calories. The good calorie/bad calorie dichotomy that has arisen in recent years makes some nutritional sense but, in a society primarily afflicted with overeating, is probably also missing the point. Eating 600 calories of fast food is less likely to make you fat than eating 900 calories of steak and mashed potatoes, even if the latter is homemade.


More maps here.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 16, 2010; 10:32 AM ET
Categories:  Food  
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Here in Massachusetts, the high fast food spending is all about Dunkin Donuts coffee.

Posted by: jduptonma | February 16, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

You might also want to dig up poverty maps. For urban areas, I doubt they'll be granular enough, but the areas of obesity on the South Dakota map correspond directly to the Cheyenne River, Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations.

Posted by: mistermix | February 16, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

The soda map is as closely correlated as the fruits and veggies map. The no-exercise map correlates pretty well too. Fast food doesn't seem to be the problem, except perhaps for the huge drinls that come with each combo meal.

I agree though that poverty is another factor to look at. But one can be overweight, eat a lot of fruits and veggies, drink no soda and not be poor. Fundamentally it does come down to quantity.

Posted by: Mimikatz | February 16, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I'd have to say that the soft drink consumption map is a much closer fit to the obesity map. It makes sense to me that soda consumption is an indicator of the particular dietary habits that cause obesity.

Poverty must be an underlying factor here judging from the hotspots on those maps.

Posted by: dailykos2 | February 16, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

i always appreciate this topic Ezra. As you'll notice most everything leans towards the poorer areas of the south (AL, MS, TN). Greater incidence of not only poor food choices but also less exercise. The scary thing of this is the fact that when I looked over middle America you thought not so bad until you realize that the lightest shade of blue is 25.1 to 30%. Not good numbers. Kudos to Mrs. Obama for taking on the task of childhood obesity. I wonder what's more difficult, childhood obesity or fixing healthcare?

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 16, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

What counts as "fruits and vegetables"? If you're including french fries and juice drinks, it's not all that useful.

Posted by: JEinATL | February 16, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Re: Fruits/vegetables consumption.

I was just reading an old National Geographic article that explained this discrepancy. Almost all of the increase in fruit/vegetable consumption in recent decades can be attributed to french fries and iceberg lettuce on hamburgers.

Thus, looking at the fruits/vegetables consumption map, it makes a lot of sense if you basically think of it as a proxy for french fry and burger consumption.

(With respect to fast food expeditures, I suspect that this more reflects the fact that certain areas have disproportionately more fast food restaurants than others, and certain areas have a much higher dine-out/dine-in ratio than others.)

Posted by: BridgeportJoe | February 16, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Looking at Colorado, for example, those with the lowest obesity rate eat the least fruits and vegetables and spend the most on fast food.

Note that The Center for Rural Strategies (a Kentucky corporation d/b/a the Daily Yonder) produced these graphics with funding from the Proteus Fund (a Massachusetts corporation) given to it by the Kellogg Fund (a corporation).

Posted by: rmgregory | February 16, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Look a bit closer. The highest areas of food/vegetable consumption have the lower obesity rates relative to their regions. NW Georgia and northern/eastern Alabama, the DC-NY corridor and eastern PA and Chicagoland. Relative to their regions they have deeper reds and lighter blues. Granted, this doesn't hold as you go further west. Colorado is altogether unique case.

Posted by: cprferry | February 16, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Can I vote that Obamacare include food stamps for fruits and vegetables (sans french fries) and gym memberships instead of diabetes testing supplies and medications for life?

Posted by: bgmma50 | February 16, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I don't see the relationship between obesity and fruit and vegetable consumption that you do.
The fruit and vegetable map looks "more like" the obesity map than does the soda map -- because the soda map is a state by state map.
I took a quick look at some of the data in the food atlas that these maps are based on. This is very crude and I didn't look at the data in any detail -- I'd like to see or do a better analysis, but here are a few correlation coefficients.

The higher the fruit and veg consumption the LOWER the obesity rate (r = -.2).

Obesity is higher when soda consumption is higher (r=.53)

Obesity has a close relationship to money. The more money, the less obesity (median income: r=-.45; poverty: r=.48).

Consumption of meat does not appear to have any substantial relationship with obesity (r = approximately 0.00006)

Posted by: bill_who | February 16, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm overweight, and I do certainly eat some fast food, but it comes down to quantity. I love fruits and vegetables. Especially vegetables--and I don't mean potatoes (which are a starch, not a vegetable). Although I do like potatoes. But I might include tubers and legumes. But I love a good salad. Vietnamese soup is ambrosia. Turnip greens, brussel sprouts, broccoli, rutabaga fries are da bomb--you like french fries, try baking up some tasty rutabaga fries.

Mmm. Rosemary. That being said, my problem is I love food, so I tend to eat too much. I also love meat. So, I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, but I also eat a lot of meat and cheese and bread.

I tend to suspect the strong relationship obesity has to lower incomes is correlative rather than causal. Given more money and greater access to organic grocers, I expect many of them would not consume less calories based on that alone.

Though I also expect there is less motivation to worry about an exercise regimen or eating more healthy foods, or even losing weight, when you're worried about simply making ends meet and keeping a roof over your head.

In my own experience, I've found a high correlation between loving food and meaning to start an exercise regimen "real soon now" and high rates of personal obesity. Mmm. Rosemary rutabaga fries.

I'll be right back.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 16, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, you clearly haven't read Gary Taubes book (Good Calories, Bad Calories) or you would know the scientific issue is clearly not total calories but the metabolic advantage of a low carb diet.

Posted by: PEHodges | February 16, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

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