CHICAGO — The percentage of Cook County residents who are obese is on the upswing, with three in 10 men and more than a third of women tipping the scales to a unhealthy number, a new study finds.
Some 31.3 percent of Cook County men were considered obese in 2011, according to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation study. Among Cook County women, 37.3 percent were obese in 2011, the researchers said.
Generally, people are defined as obese if they are 20 percent or more over their ideal body weight.
Cook County men are less likely to be obese than the national average: 33.8 percent of American men were obese in 2011. Cook County women are more likely to be obese than the average American woman (36.1 percent of females nationally).
Changes in data collection affected direct comparisons of 2011 to prior years but obesity levels are rising, the researchers said. In 2001, 24 percent of Cook County men were obese as were 30.2 percent of women.
The good news from the report by the University of Washington-based Institute: More people are exercising.
Some 53 percent of Cook County men and 53.9 percent of local women had "sufficient physical activity." Those surveyed were asked if they had run, done calisthenics, golfed, gardened or walked for exercise in the last month and how much.
But the researchers wrote that increased physical activity alone "has a small impact on obesity." While exercise helps reduce heart disease and diabetes, "reductions in caloric intake are likely needed to curb the obesity epidemic."
"Around the country, you can see huge increases in the percentage of people becoming physically active, which research tells us is certain to have health benefits," institute director Christopher Murray said in a statement. "If communities in the U.S. can replicate this success and tackle the ongoing obesity impact, it will see more substantial health gains."