Memphis, Shreveport Top List of ‘Fattest’ Cities in America

A new survey has tabulated numbers of overweight people, inactive people, and incidences of diabetes to find the fattest city in America. The biggest loser? Memphis, Tennessee.

The study, conducted by WalletHub as part of National Nutrition Month, analyzed 100 of America’s largest cities to “identify those where weight-related problems call for heightened attention.” It included metrics such as number of adults with high blood pressure, and percentage of adults eating fewer than one serving of fruits and vegetables daily.

Image: Overweight woman stands on a scale
Overweight woman stands on a scale Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Memphis — the city that gave us Elvis Presley and the fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich — ranked top of the list, with an index of 76.97 on the “fatometer.” Shreveport, Louisiana, came second with 75.24; and Indianapolis placed third, with 73.88.

If obesity trends continue at their current rate, the study warns, health care costs for obesity-related issues could reach $66 billion a year, with annual productivity losses topping $580 billion by 2030.

“Educating Americans about nutritious eating and active living is one way to help reverse the harmful effects of obesity,” said the study’s authors. “Policy changes that focus on reducing obesity rates, especially in parts of the U.S. where the epidemic is most prevalent, can supply effective solutions as well.”

One nutritional expert said that fixing America’s obesity epidemic might start with a simple answer: “Avoid the dollar menu,” advised Carolyn Dunn, head of Youth, Family, and Community Sciences at North Carolina State University. “Healthy, low cost [eating] is very possible: Think dried beans, frozen vegetables, in-season fresh fruits and vegetables.”

But the workplace is just as much of a factor as diet, contended Emily Yates-Doer, research associate in Anthropology at New York University. “Providing workers with decent conditions, which include fair minimum wages and time off so that people can enjoy leisurely meals would be a great place to start,” she advised.

In addition to topping the survey, Memphis also ranked first in the categories for most obese adults and most physically inactive adults. New Orleans took the cake for highest number of adults eating fewer than one serving of fruits or vegetables per day; and Dayton, OH, has the largest percentage of adults with high cholesterol.

Honolulu, Reno, and Boise ranked as the least unhealthy places in the U.S. — with a special mention to Los Angeles for having the least number of obese adults and the most amount of fruit-and-veggie-eaters.