The world is getting fatter. In most countries around the world obesity is growing at alarming rates. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says, for the first in human history, there are now more obese people in the world than there are starving. And, as the World Health Organization (WHO) points out, obesity kills triple the number of people than malnutrition. Over three million people die every year from obesity-related issues, includingdiabetes, heart disease and other problems.
With the exception of sub-Saharan Africa, eating too much is now a more serious risk to the health of populations than eating poorly.Today, around 40 percent of adults worldwide can be classified as overweight and in more than 100 countries more than half of the adult population can be labeled overweight.
The reasons for this worldwide obesity epidemic are quite straight forward; with life becoming more sedentary people are increasingly consuming more calories than they are burning. Easy access to and availability of junk food and sweetened drinks, which deliver empty calories, leavesmore people overweight than nourished.
Here we look at the top ten countries in the world with the fattest people — percentage of the population that can be classified as being obese.
#10 United States – 31.8 percent
The US has a reputation across the world for being one of the fattest countries. Documentaries like ‘Supersize Me’ have outlined the country’s seeming addiction to junk food and disregard for basic ideas on healthy eating and living. So, it is not surprising that the US, with nearly one-third of its population qualifying as obese, ranks on our list; but it ranks at the bottom of the top-ten, there are nine more countries with fatter people.The good news for the United States is that the amount of overweight people has been dropping lately. The bad news is that the percentage of people who are obese has been on the rise.
#9 Mexico – 32.8 percent
Coming in at ninth on this list of the fattest countries in the world is Mexico, with a rate of obesity at just under a third of the population. Like in the United States, the percentage of overweight and obese people in the country is considered to be a serious issue of national health. A key contributor to the high rate of obesity in Mexico is that the general population was only introduced to the highly processed, fatty, and sugary foods of other western countries fairly recently. Up until around the 1980s, a typical diet in Mexico was made up mostly of fresh produce and natural ingredients. Mexico is said to be the world’s largest consumer of Coca Cola, and it is clear that its population drinks way too much soda. As a reaction to this, the government recently announced a tax on soda.
#8 – Qatar – 33.1percent
When a country is able to quickly become rich from its natural resources, there are two ways it can impact public health. One is that the health of the country can improve, as food becomes more available and of higher quality, along with better sanitation and safety standards. Unfortunately, in Qatar, the great upswing in the wealth of the country came with a downturn in the health of the country. Qatar is the richest country in the world if you look at their per capita income, but thecountry is facing a crisis in rising childhood diabetes rates. Western fast food chains have popped up everywhere in Qatar and the country’s rapid modernization and growth has likely led to a more sedentary lifestyle.
#7 – South Africa – 33.5 percent
South Africa is among the few African nations that appear on this list. Many African countries struggle with high instances of poverty andundernourishment, caused by an inadequate food supply, inequality, and bad food distribution systems. However, in many countries with high rates of hunger, obesity is also on the rise. It seems ironic that while people are starving in some developing countries, the number of obese people there have tripled or quadrupled in last few decades.One reason is the grossly unhealthy food that is easily available which causes people to become overweight while not nourishing them adequately. It is also the result of extreme inequality and corruption. In South Africa, some say that nearly half of the country’s total deaths are caused by heart attacks and strokes, which usually can be traced to being overweight or obese.
#6 – United Arab Emirates – 33.7 percent
United Arab Emirates shares many of its causes and effects of obesity with Qatar. Oil wealth came to the country too quickly and with it came a Western-style diet of fast food that the population was not used to traditionally. Incidentally, while obesity rates around the world are generally higher among males, in the UAE the opposite is true, with around six percent more females being obese than males in the country. Some people also point out to historical reasons for obesity in countries like UAE, where being fat was traditionally associated with being wealthy and powerful.
#5 – Jordan – 34.3 percent
Jordan has similarities with UAE when it comes to its obesity problem. For one, obesity is far more common in women than in men; but the gender difference is even starker with almost twice as many women being obese as men. A link can be drawn between age of marriage and obesity in this country; with girls getting married early they are often left with a sedentary and restricted lifestyle, unemployment, and a kind of existence that is conducive to weight gain. As well as getting married early, the WHO has looked at smoking and wealth as other factors that contribute to the high rate of obesity in Jordan and rank it among the fattest countries.
#4 – Egypt – 34.6 percent
Like many other countries on this list, the obesity problem in Egypt can be partially linked to rapid industrialization. In Egypt, the percentage of fat people in the cities is twice as big as the percentage of fat people in more rural areas. An abundance of cheap, fast food that is not nourishing combined with a less active lifestyle is a dangerous mix. The results have been especially saddening in Egypt. Egypt has the highest diabetes rates in the world, and teenagers in the country drink an alarming amount of soda, making it the fattest country in Africa.
#3 – Belize – 34.9 percent
While the obesity problem in countries like Egypt has been pretty widely talked about and documented for at least a few decades, Belize, the relatively small nation in South America, just south of Mexico, was not thought of as a nation with an obesity problem until recently. It is the only Central American country that makes this list. However, that does not mean that obesity is not a problem in the area, we have already talked of Mexico, but Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago are also countries with serious obesity issues. Further south, obesity rates are also on the rise in the wealthier South American countries like Chile and Argentina.
#2 – Saudi Arabia – 35.2 percent
Less than a decade ago, a study had found that Saudi Arabia was barely among the top-thirty fattest countries in the world, today it ranks second. Over a third of the women in Saudi Arabia are said to struggle from health issues or complications that are a direct result of weight issues. Some studies claim that the obesity problem in Saudi Arabia may be much worse than the number listed here show, and that the rate of obesity is rising alarmingly. In Saudi Arabia, obesity-related problems are not included in health insurance plans and citizens end up paying large amounts of money to treat issues related to obesity.
#1 – Kuwait – 42.8 percent
Kuwait has the unenviable reputation of being the fattest country in the world. While 13 percent of people worldwide are said to be obese, in Kuwait the percentage is more than three times higher. Being a wealthy oil-rich country, citizens are accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle and their love for fast food and eating out has only aggravated the problem of obesity among the population. The high consumption of fast food in Kuwait has also led to the introduction of another American idea: stomach stapling. Kuwait is said to have the highest rates of stomach stapling of any country. Around five thousand stomach staple procedures are performed in a given year in a country with a pretty small population of around three and a half million people.
The definition of overweight is a BMI of 25 or more, and the definition of obese is a DMI of 30 or more.