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Global Obesity Epidemic – Time to Act Decisively

Obesity has reached the point of a global epidemic, according to a new report published by the World Health Organization (WHO).  A person is considered obese when their body mass index exceeds 30.  Today, obesity affects more than 2.8 million people each year and this number is increasing constantly.  Excess weight kills approximately 3.4 billion people every year.

Whether they are described as rich, poor or developing, all countries in the world are affected by obesity.  If, in the past, excessive weight gain was a challenge in high-income countries, nowadays the situation has changed and all countries are concerned.

And, obesity does not discriminate based on age.  Today, more than 1.4 billion twenty year olds globally are considered obese. This number is expected to increase to 3.3 billion by 2030.

Relationship between obesity and economic status

The countries with the highest obesity rates are not necessarily the richest, nor the most developed.

In the CIA’s World Factbook list, the United States of America is ranked 12th and the United Kingdom 27th among the most obese countries in the world.  This indicates that there is no direct relationship between obesity and economic status.

If we dig a bit deeper and analyze the CIA’s Word Factbook list, we will find out that smaller countries such as Naura, Marshall Islands, Kuwait and Samoa have the highest rate of obesity.

Food scarcity and decreasing purchasing power which characterizes poor and underdeveloped countries are the main reasons why these countries have the highest rate of obesity. People living in these countries have restricted access to balanced and healthy diet.  In some cases, their only option is eating easily available junk and fried foods.

Gender and Age Disparity

Gender and age are also factors that differentiate the rate of obesity between countries.

In the UK, USA, Australia and Canada, nearly 25% of men who are 18 years older or above are overweight or obese.  However, in South-East Asia, Africa and East Mediterranean, the rate of obesity among women outweighs the rate of obesity among men.

In some countries, women are often restricted to their homes thus having little scope to physical activities.

It has been reported to the WHO in 2013 that more than 42 million children not older than 5 years were suffering from obesity.

Obesity in the USA

Obesity is a major health problem in the US.  The rate of obesity in North America has continually increased in the last few decades.  Today, more than 78 million adults and 13 million children living in the US are considered obese, with 35% of the population with a body mass index that exceeds 30.

The American diet has historically contained a large amount of calorie rich, processed foods.  The good news is that more and more Americans today are replacing process foods in their diets with more fruit, vegetables, fruits, and other healthy foods.

The world is now taking this phenomenon seriously.  Health experts and organizations around the world have set up an agenda for control and prevention. The increasing rate of obesity globally may now look bleak, but there is hope on the horizon.   


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