Academic journal article Education

The Deep Fried South: A Literary Analysis of Nutritional Knowledge of Students and Adults in Alabama

Academic journal article Education

The Deep Fried South: A Literary Analysis of Nutritional Knowledge of Students and Adults in Alabama

Article excerpt

Obesity is a major concern in the United States because of its rapid rate of increase. In 2000, there was no state that had a prevalence of obesity of less than 10% and by 2010 there was no state that had a prevalence of obesity of less than 20%. Moreover, 12 states had a prevalence of equal to or greater than 30% (National Center for Health Statistics, 2010). This was most prevalent in the South (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee) and this concern is further magnified by the increase in the obesity rate among children aged 6-11 with the rate increasing 147% from 1971 to 1994. When the quality of the children's diets was analyzed it was found that more than 8 out of 10 children consume too much saturated fat and fewer than 10% consume the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables each day (Cancer Research Foundation of America, 2002).

Obesity poses an economic as well as a health problem in that costs associated with chronic diseases related to obesity are on the rise. According to Edwards (2005), the average cost to the United States health care system is $117 billion per year in direct medical costs. However, this number does not include the indirect expenses associated with obesity such as loss of wages and decreased productivity (Edwards, 2005).

Alabama residents have been particularly affected by the rising obesity rates. In 2010, more than 30% of Alabama adult residents were classified as obese compared to less than 10% in 1986 (National Center for Health Statistics, 2010). Also, in 2010, 17.5% of adolescents were labeled as overweight and 13.5% were considered obese (CDC, 2012). According the CDC (2012) body mass index (BMI) is expressed as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (kg/[m.sup.2]). This is commonly used to classify obesity among adults ([greater than or equal to] 30 kg/[m.sup.2]) and is also recommended for use with children and adolescents. The cutoff criteria are based on the 2000 CDC BMI-for-age-growth charts for the United States and based on current recommendations of expert committees, children with BMI values at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific BMI growth charts are categorized as obese Further, BMI values between the 85th and 95th percentile of BMI for age are designated as "overweight" (CDC, 2012).

Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to review the literature of studies conducted on Alabama residents in the areas of obesity rate, socioeconomic factors, nutrition education, consumer behavior, and the potential connection of these factors to resident's nutritional knowledge to determine if this could be a significant factor in the rapid increase in the obesity rate in the state.

A study evaluating Alabama's elementary aged students was conducted in Birmingham, Alabama. This study did not directly measure the nutritional knowledge of the students, rather it looked at student's risk of being overweight and actual students who were considered overweight, which, could have resulted due to the student's lack of nutritional knowledge. Geiger, Sims, Evans, Roy, Werner, Prier, Cochrane, Fulmore, Dawson, Kirkpatrick, and Brown (2009) collected data from 15,560 children in kindergarten through fifth grade, who participated in a mobile health education program in Alabama from 1999-2004. Students in this study were from 41 public and private schools in the Birmingham Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) (Geiger et al., 2009). Based on the CDC's definitions of overweight and obese, the results of the study revealed that 16% of the participants were classified as at overweight and 16% as obese. The researchers suggested that there is a need for early primary prevention within families.

Another area of study is socioeconomic factors and their connection to the obesity rate in the state. Akil and Ahmad (2011) examined the association between the increase in body mass index (BMI) and socioeconomic factors such as income level, percent below poverty line, unemployment rates, and persons receiving food stamps in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and Colorado. …

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