032708mermaidparade.jpgBetween the 2002 and 2004, New York City residents gained 10 million pounds, becoming Rubenesque at a rate nearly three times that of other Americans, according to a survey by city health officials. Obesity and diabetes rates in the city soared 17% between 2002 and 2004, compared to a 6% rise in obesity rates nationwide, where there was no marked increase in the rate of diabetes.

The biggest obesity increases are seen in the city’s fast-growing immigrant populations and low-income groups. But other classes are also pulling their weight; the obesity rate among the middle class grew 27.6% and the city’s fat cats grew 14% fatter between ’02 and ’04. Health officials are mystified by the stats, but Audrey Silk, founder of a smokers' rights group, is quick to blame Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-smoking crusade, because people who quit gain an average of 12 pounds: “While they're trying to save one segment of society… they're getting nowhere because it has a negative effect elsewhere.”

It’s also worth remembering that life in New York in the wake of 9/11 was particularly stressful, which may have contributed to overeating. Some health officials are also blaming soda consumption for the fattening, because 27% of adults drink one or more sodas a day. Whatever the reasons, the bottom line is huge: Over 1.7 million city residents are obese, while over 700,000 have diabetes. Gretchen Van Wye, a city health department official, says the study proves “we need to move forward with initiatives like the green carts to make sure New Yorkers are getting their fruits and vegetables.”

Photo: Polish Sausage Queen