SLO County population less obese than other parts of the nation

Obese people were more likely to live in parts of the country with less access to both affordable produce and safe places to exercise than thinner people, according to a recent survey.

Those who lived in places where residents said they sometimes didn’t have enough money to buy food were also more likely to be obese.

Gallup randomly surveyed 353,000 U.S. adults throughout 2009. It found that of the 10 metropolitan areas with the highest percentages of obese people, eight were among the least likely regions to have easy access to affordable fruits and vegetables. Nine were among the least likely to have a safe place to exercise. Seven were among the most likely to have residents reporting lack of money to buy food in the past 12 months.

Meanwhile, people in the 10 metropolitan areas with the thinnest residents were more likely to say they could find fresh fruits and vegetables, had a safe place to exercise and enough money to buy food.

While an average 77.8 percent of residents in the 10 most obese areas reported having health insurance, 93.6 percent of those in the least obese areas said they had health insurance.

The metropolitan areas with the lowest percentages of obese people, according to Gallup:

  • Fort Collins/Loveland, Colo. (16.0 percent)
  • Boulder, Colo. (16.6 pct)
  • Barnstable Town, Mass. (16.9 pct)
  • Colorado Springs, Colo. (17.2 pct)
  • San Luis Obispo/Paso Robles, Calif. (17.6 pct)
  • Reno/Sparks, Nev. (17.7 pct)
  • Santa Cruz/Watsonville, Calif. (17.9 pct)
  • San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, Calif. (19.0 pct)
  • San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont, Calif. (19.2 pct)
  • Denver/Aurora, Colo. (19.3 pct)
  • Bridgeport/Stamford/Norwalk, Conn. (19.3 pct)

The metropolitan areas with the largest percentages of obese people, according to Gallup:

  • Montgomery, Ala. (34.6 percent)
  • Stockton, Calif. (34.6 pct)
  • Visalia/Porterville, Calif. (34.1 pct)
  • York/Hanover, Pa. (34.0 pct)
  • Flint, Mich. (33.9 pct)
  • McAllen/Edinburg/Mission, Texas (33.7 pct)
  • Bakersfield, Calif. (33.6 pct)
  • Lynchburg, Va. (33.0 pct)
  • Huntington/Ashland, W.Va./Ky./Ohio (33.0 pct)
  • Kingsport/Bristol, Tenn./Va. (32.9 pct)

Stockton, Visalia/Porterville and Bakersfield are in a major agricultural region of California. However, they are also poor areas, said Gail Feenstra, food systems coordinator at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at the University of California, Davis. People with low incomes would have a tough time buying fresh produce in grocery stores, even in regions that grow a lot of fruits and vegetables, she said.