updated 4/5/2005 7:19:04 PM ET 2005-04-05T23:19:04

California, the land of body worshippers and vegetarians, is getting alarmingly fat, with more than half of all adults overweight, according to a study released Tuesday.

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The study estimates that overweight and inactive Californians cost $21.7 billion a year in medical bills, injuries and lost productivity.

It noted that a decade of overeating and sitting in front of the television has given California “one of the fastest rates of increase in adult obesity of any state in the nation,” and there is sign that the rise is slowing.

Nearly 53 percent of Californians over 25 are overweight, and more than 17 percent are obese, or extremely overweight, the study found.

The rates among Hispanics, blacks and adults with less than a high school education are even higher and exceed 60 percent, said the study, which was prepared for the California Department of Health Services.

The findings come in a state led by former bodybuilder Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who crusades against junk food in schools and wants vending machines stocked with fresh vegetables, milk and other healthy products.

“The obesity epidemic is more than public health crisis; it is an economic crisis,” said Kim Belshe, Schwarzenegger’s secretary for health and human services. She said employers can save money and maintain a healthy work force by offering nutritious food at work and opportunities to exercise.

The $30,000 report, conducted for the state by North Carolina-based Chenoweth & Associates, estimates that obesity costs California $11.2 billion annually in lost productivity, $10.2 billion in medical care and $388 million in workers’ compensation.

“The majority of those costs were shouldered by public and private employers in the form of health insurance and lost productivity,” said the study, which analyzed medical claims data.

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