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Southerners Aren’t More Obese–They’re Just More Honest

The popular conception that the South has America’s most obese people may be wrong, according to a new study. Conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, possibly in attempt to regain the South’s good name, the researchers found that the most obesity is actually in the Midwest, in states like Minnesota, Kansas and North and South Dakota (not New York!).

According to UAB’s researchers the discrepancy stems from the fact that southerners are–wait for it–more honest. From Alabama.com:

The notion that the South is the fattest comes primarily from a nationwide telephone survey done by the Centers for Disease Control, in which the surveyor asks for height and weight, among other things, Howard said.

That survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), shows the South as the most obese, with Mississippi and Alabama, the number one and two fattest states respectively.

But the UAB researchers found that when people were actually weighed, the numbers didn’t add up.

So the misconceptions about Southerners’ weight happened because they’re honest about their body types, while the rest of us Yankees lied in the survey. “It is hard to know exactly what is going on, but my speculation is that people int the South are telling the truth more,” said George Howard, one of the study’s authors. “Perhaps there is not as much stigma connected to obesity as say someone in California, or in this case, Minnesota.”

But Howard was quick to point out that the South doesn’t exactly get good marks on health, either. “What we found is the West North Central region has about 41 percent obesity compared to 31 percent obesity in the southern region that includes Alabama and Mississippi,” he said. “By the way, 31 percent is not a good thing — but it’s not at the bottom.”

(Photo: Ed Yourdon/Flickr)