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Why are we fat? Researcher takes on obesity question

Every science experiment starts with a question.

In Steven Blair’s case, that question is an urgent one: Is the obesity epidemic plaguing South Carolina, in particular, and the United States, in general, driven more by overeating or by inactivity?

Blair, a professor in USC’s Department of Exercise Science and Epidemiology/Biostatistics, will spend the next year sorting through the question.

First, though, he needs the help of 400 overweight but relatively healthy men and women, between the ages of 21 to 35, to take part in a study about what is behind obesity.

In South Carolina, participants shouldn’t be hard to find. Recent reports by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showed what any casual observer at the S.C. State Fair, readily can see: Many South Carolinians – two-thirds of the population – are overweight; about 31 percent are obese.

Even the state’s top beauty queen, Miss S.C. Bree Boyce, used to be overweight. But that was 110 pounds and one glittering tiara ago.

Blair’s experiment aims to find out, specifically, why people pack on the pounds. That knowledge then could be used to help shrink the dangerously unhealthy waistlines of South Carolinians.

Blair has a theory of his own.

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