Obesity has become a major global health crisis, and experts believe that it will continue to rise in the coming years. About 3.4 million people die from obesity every year. It increases the risks of heart diseases, diabetes, certain types of cancer, and reduces your lifespan. According to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, about 12% of the world’s adults and 5% children are obese. Here we take a look at the top 10 most obese countries in the world.
An individual is considered obese if they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher. The BMI score reflects your weight in relation to your height. To calculate it, you just have to divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. According to the World Health Organization, a person is overweight if they have a BMI of 25 or higher, and obese if their BMI is 30 or higher.
The number of overweight or obese adults has been going up for decades. About two billion adults around the world are considered overweight or obese. That’s 39% of the world’s adult population!
Top 10 most obese countries in the world, according to WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a study on obesity in 200 countries. The institution collected data based on surveys from national health ministries. As per WHO, the top 10 most obese countries are:
- American Samoa
- Cook Islands
- Marshall Islands
All these countries have an adult obesity rate of above 60%. Yes, more than half of their adult population is obese and almost their entire adult population is overweight. For instance, American Samoa located in the South Pacific has an obesity rate of 74.6%! Other than Kuwait (which is in the Middle East), all the nations are located in the South Pacific.
The weight of adults in the South Pacific region is in increasing 4x faster than the global average. Some experts argue people in the region are genetically predisposed to obesity. But other studies have pointed out that the eating habits of locals were influenced by the colonial settlers, which caused them to gain weight.
These are the most obese countries with the highest proportion of obese people. But they are tiny nations with small populations. So, obesity in these nations doesn’t have much impact on the total number of obese people on the planet. More than 50% of the world’s obese population lives in a handful of countries like the US, the UK, Mexico, Germany, Brazil, Chile, and Turkey.
Top 10 most obese countries, as per OECD
So, let’s take a look at the most obese countries according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which is an organization consisting of 35 of the world’s largest economies. The OECD determines the BMI for different countries based on the weight and height estimates from national surveys and “measured” data on weight and height from health examinations.
These are the most obese nations as per OECD, along with the percentage of obese adult population:
- United States of America (38.2% of the adult population)
- Mexico (32.4%)
- New Zealand (30.7%)
- Hungary (30%)
- Australia (27.9%)
- United Kingdom (26.9%)
- Canada (25.8%)
- Chile (25.1%)
- Finland (24.8%)
- Germany (23.6%)
According to OECD, the United States is the most obese country on the planet where 38.2% of people above the age of 15 are obese. Mexico is not far behind at 32.4%. About 78 million adults and 13 million children in the US have a BMI above 30. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the average American adult today is 26 pounds heavier than in the 1950s.
In Mexico, obesity is higher among women than in men. Obesity in the country will continue to rise until 2030. The Mexican population started gaining weight rapidly in the 1980s when processed food items began replacing vegetables and whole grains. Mexico introduced a sugar tax in 2014 to combat the problem of obesity.
Developed nations tend to suffer from higher obesity rates despite having access to better healthcare, recreational facilities, and healthy foods. Experts blame processed foods, sedentary lifestyle, and genetics for the problem. The WHO says some underdeveloped countries suffer from obesity due to the lack of healthy food for citizens, which prompts people to live on an unhealthy diet, leading to overweight and obesity.
There are a variety of ways to fight obesity. The existing measures have failed miserably to make an impact because obesity continues to rise around the world. The OECD recommends food labeling. The organization has also praised apps that help people with weight loss, as well as promotional campaigns on social networking sites. In my view, the best way to fight obesity is to start working out at least an hour every day, and replace processed and packaged foods with whole grains and vegetables. Trust me, it’s worth it.