Misleading maligning of the South is nothing new. But in recent years, a prominent myth about our region has been the oft-repeated “news” that we have the nation’s highest obesity rate.
For instance, the federal Centers for Disease Control reported last year that 29.5 percent of people in the South were obese, topping the Midwest’s 29 percent, with the Northeast (25.3) and West (24.3) recording much healthier rates.
Yet a University of Alabama-Birmingham study, recently published in the aptly titled journal Obesity, has now seemingly cleared the South of that hefty charge.
UAB researchers discovered that the CDC gathered its obesity data through surveys of what Americans gave as their own weights.
When verified statistics recorded by impartial observers during a long-running study were checked, they showed increases over the “self reported” obesity rate for every region.
However, that rise was much steeper in northern parts of the Midwest than it was the South. Thus, the highest obesity rates in those more reliable calculations came from up there — not down here.
That doesn’t merely suggest that folks from the northern part of the Midwest are more likely to be obese than Southerners.
It suggests that they’re more likely to lie about their weight.
Our state and region do still suffer from serious health problems directly related to a sharp rise in obesity over the last few decades.
Still, that UAB study has lightened the Southern stigma load by challenging the long-accepted notion that we’re No. 1 in body lard.
It’s tempting to celebrate he UAB findings as conclusive, though some nitpickers are likely to dispute them.
It’s also tempting to condemn those upper Midwesterners for their big fat fibs.
But the truth is, that would violate this especially endearing charm of Southerners, be their physical forms portly, svelte or otherwise: