It’s a big problem — and it continues to get bigger.

Obesity rates in New Jersey and across the country have more than doubled over the past 20 years, and they’re now at their highest rates ever recorded.

According to statistics from The State of Obesity, a project of the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current adult obesity rate in New Jersey is 27.4 percent.

There's good news ... sort of. Albert Lang, a senior communications manager at Trust for America’s Health, said Jersey’s obesity rate is actually lower than 35 other states.

“New Jersey compared to the rest of the country is pretty good. Unfortunately we’ve seen, like much of the rest of the country, the rate rise dramatically in New Jersey,” he said.

In 2000, New Jersey's rate was just 17 percent.

And this is not just a problem for adults.

“Thirty-two percent of kids 10 to 17 in New Jersey are either overweight or obese, which is kind of an alarming number obviously when you think about how kids are supposed to be young and healthy and active,” Lang said.

He noted there are several factors that contribute to childhood obesity. That includes whether they have easy access to parks, and whether they can bike or walk to school. But they're also affected by junk food habits, and playing video games or otherwise being sedentary when they could be playing outside.

Giridhar Mallya, a senior policy officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said obesity causes a variety of serious health problems, even for kids as young as 5 years old.

“They can have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, problems with their joints, just carrying too much weight on their joints," he said.

He noted for adults, obesity is a critical risk factor “in everything from multiple types of cancer to cardiovascular disease to stroke.”

And Mallya said the rapid increase in obesity is the main reason we've seen "an explosion in rates of diabetes in this country."

He added “this is an issue that isn’t really just about people’s weight, but it’s about their overall metabolic health.”

The most obese states in America, with rates above 35 percent, are: West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana.

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