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What’s the world’s fattest country? Not America !!

World’s Fattest Countries

Lauren Streib

No matter how you tip the scales, Americans are getter wider every year. What’s worse is that many nations are following suit.

In a list of the countries with the greatest percentage of overweight people, Nauru tops a list of countries with the greatest percentage of overweight people, with an alarming 94.5% of its adult population (ages 15+) classified as such, based on the most recent estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO). The Federated States of Micronesia, Cook Islands, Niue and Tonga round out the top five, all with a portly population of over 90%.

The U.S. weighs in at No. 9, with 74.1% of those over 15 years old considered overweight. But given that its population is nearly 20,000 times that of Nauru, clearly the U.S.’s size belies it rank.

Experts say it is not surprising that people across the globe are increasingly becoming overweight. They blame urbanization and the influx of Western ways of life including myriad fast food choices, little exercise and stressful jobs.

“Due to urbanization, more people are living in more dense environments, in cities where they are removed from traditional food sources and dependent on an industrial food supply,” says Neville Rigby, director of policy and public affairs for the International Association for the Study of Obesity. Modernization is causing countries with small populations and few resources to depend on imported, often over-processed food. “The Western diet overwhelms, and many people are not genetically engineered to cope with this,” says Rigby.

Countries Transformed

This change in lifestyle is most evident in the South Pacific. On the list of “fattest” countries, eight of the top 10 are in the Pacific region.

In the last 50 years this area has established significant economic ties with the U.S. and New Zealand, which caused a surge in Western imports and a significant change in diet. Studies conducted by the WHO Western Pacific regional office and by the International Obesity Task Force, a London-based think tank, also point to several other factors they say contribute to the region’s high obesity rates. These include the common belief that beauty is marked by a large physical size, the reliance on fatty, nutrient-deficient imported foods and a decrease in activity caused by less farming and agricultural work.

Elsewhere, developing countries are dealing with what many experts call a nutrition transition–economies that are used to dealing primarily with undernutrition must now fight obesity.

“Obesity has become a problem of poverty,” says Daniel Epstein of the WHO Regional Office of the Americas. “Poor people have an easier time of eating junk food. People fill up on things that have a high caloric value but little nutritional value.”

Dr. Frank Hu, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, agrees.

“The problems of obesity rates dramatically increase in countries that are undergoing economical development,” he says. Rural workers moving to urban areas perform less physical labor and supplant traditional low-fat diets that include local goods with processed diets that are high in fat and sugar.

China and India have relatively low percentages of overweight adults, 28.9% and 16.0% respectively. But obesity and its potential complications are increasing there at unparalleled speed due to the growth of urban populations and an expanding middle class who can afford richer food in greater quantities than their rural counterparts. In China, for example, the number of obese people has tripled since 1992, the WHO reports.

It’s Not All About Size

The related health risks associated with being overweight are striking. Cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and stroke are just some of the hazards.

It should not come as a shock that the nation with the highest rate of adult diabetes is Nauru, where nearly 31% of the population is struck with the disease, according to the International Diabetes Federation. The countries with the largest numbers of people with diabetes are India (40.9 million), China (39.8 million) and the U.S. (19.2 million).

Behind the Numbers

The WHO’s definitions of “overweight” and “obese” are based on an individual’s body mass index (BMI), which measures weight relative to height. Overweight is marked by a BMI greater than or equal to 25 and obese is defined as having a BMI greater than or equal to 30.

It’s important to note that the definitions for overweight can vary by country and study. For example, in China, where the population has a high susceptibility to abdominal obesity (which is not directly reflected in BMI calculations), the cut-off point for overweight is 23.

There are currently 1.6 billion overweight adults in the world. In just 10 years, the WHO projects that number will grow by 40%.

As far as comparing the obesity rates of countries, “it’s hard to make automatic comparisons,” says Rigby. “It’s more important to recognize that levels are increasing across the board.”

There are currently 1.6 billion overweight adults in the world, according to the World Health Organization. That number is projected to grow by 40% over the next 10 years. The following list reflects the percentage of overweight adults aged 15 and over. These are individuals who have individual body mass indexes, which measures weight relative to height, greater than or equal to 25. Obese is defined as having a BMI greater than or equal to 30.

Rank

Country

%

1

Nauru

94.5

2

Micronesia, Federated States of

91.1

3

Cook Islands

90.9

4

Tonga

90.8

5

Niue

81.7

6

Samoa

80.4

7

Palau

78.4

8

Kuwait

74.2

9

United States

74.1

10

Kiribati

73.6

11

Dominica

71.0

12

Barbados

69.7

13

Argentina

69.4

14

Egypt

69.4

15

Malta

68.7

16

Greece

68.5

17

New Zealand

68.4

18

United Arab Emirates

68.3

19

Mexico

68.1

20

Trnidad and Tobago

67.9

21

Australia

67.4

22

Belarus

66.8

23

Chile

65.3

24

Venezuela(Bolivarian Republic of)

65.2

25

Seychelles

64.1

26

Bahrain

64.1

27

Andorra

63.8

28

United Kingdom

63.8

29

Saudi Arabia

63.5

30

Monaco

62.4

31

Bolivia

62.2

32

San Marino

62.1

33

Guatemala

61.2

34

Mongolia

61.2

35

Canada

61.1

36

Qatar

61.0

37

Uruguay

60.9

38

Jordan

60.5

39

Bahamas

60.4

41

Nicaragua

60.4

42

Cuba

60.1

43

Germany

60.1

44

Brunei Darussalam

59.8

45

Slovenia

59.8

46

Peru

59.6

47

Vanuatu

59.6

48

Finland

58.7

49

Jamaica

57.4

Rank

Country

%

50

Israel

57.3

51

Saint Lucia

57.3

52

Austria

57.1

53

Azerbaijan

57.1

54

Turkey

56.8

55

Tuvalu

56.6

56

Dominican Republic

56.5

57

Slovakia

56.3

58

Cyprus

56.2

59

Saint Kitts and Nevis

56.1

60

Costa Rica

55.8

61

Colombia

55.6

62

Antigua and Barbuda

55.5

63

Switzerland

55.4

64

Montenegro

54.9

65

Serbia

54.9

66

Serbia and Montenegro

54.9

67

Albania

54.8

68

Fiji

54.8

69

Bulgaria

54.2

70

Luxembourg

54.2

71

Croatia

53.9

72

Bosnia and Herzegovina

53.8

73

Portugal

53.8

74

Armenia

53.3

75

Grenada

53.3

76

South Africa

53.3

77

Iran (Islamic Republic of)

53.2

78

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

53.2

79

Lithuania

53.1

80

Lebanon

53.0

81

Czech Republic

52.9

82

Syrian Arab Republic

52.8

83

Spain

51.8

84

Hungary

51.6

85

Panama

51.4

86

Tunisia

51.0

87

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

50.6

88

Brazil

50.5

89

Belize

49.8

90

Sweden

49.7

91

Norway

49.1

92

Russian Federation

49.1

93

El Salvador

48.7

94

Lesotho

48.5

95

Suriname

47.8

96

Paraguay

47.7

98

Poland

47.5

99

Lativia

47.3

100

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

47.2

Rank

Country

%

101

Ecuador

47.1

102

Turkmenistan

46.8

103

Ireland

46.6

104

Belgium

46.3

105

Marshall Islands

46.2

106

Netherlands

46.0

107

Uzbekistan

46.0

108

Denmark

46.0

109

Mauritius

45.6

110

Oman

45.6

111

Italy

45.5

112

Iraq

45.4

113

Georgia

44.8

114

Ukraine

44.8

115

Solomon Islands

44.0

116

Botswana

43.6

117

Honduras

43.5

118

Equatorial Guinea

43.0

119

Morocco

42.9

120

Dem. Republic of Timor-Leste

42.7

121

Mauritania

42.5

122

Estonia

42.2

123

Republic of Korea

42.0

124

Swaziland

41.8

125

Kazakhstan

41.4

126

Republic of Moldova

41.1

127

Bhutan

40.9

128

France

40.1

129

Cameroon

39.9

130

Maldives

39.9

131

Algeria

39.8

132

Dem. People’s Republic of Korea

39.4

133

Kyrgyzstan

39.2

134

Romania

39.1

135

Lao People’s Democratic Republic

38.9

136

Cape Verde

38.2

139

Myanmar

36.5

140

Liberia

35.6

141

Sierra Leone

33.4

142

Haiti

32.8

143

Zimbabwe

32.1

144

Thailand

31.6

145

Papua New Guinea

30.2

146

Malaysia

29.9

147

Ghana

29.2

148

China

28.9

149

Benin

28.5

Rank

Country

%

150

Comoros

28.0

151

Angola

27.5

152

Nigeria

27.1

153

Yemen

27.0

154

Senegal

26.4

155

Philippines

25.2

156

Djibouti

24.9

157

Mali

24.1

158

Togo

24.0

159

Guinea

23.5

160

Sudan

23.1

161

Cote d’Ivoire

22.9

162

Singapore

22.9

163

Japan

22.5

164

Namibia

22.5

165

Pakistan

22.2

166

Sao Tome and Principe

21.4

167

United Republic of Tanzania

21.2

168

Malawi

19.3

169

Congo

18.9

170

Niger

17.6

171

Madagascar

17.4

172

Mozambique

17.3

173

Guinea-Bissau

16.7

174

Gambia

16.6

175

Indonesia

16.2

176

India

16.0

177

Somalia

15.6

178

Chad

15.6

179

Afghanistan

15.1

180

Uganda

14.8

181

14.3

182

Burkina Faso

14.1

183

Rwanda

13.7

184

Zambia

13.0

185

Burundi

12.9

186

Central African Republic

12.9

187

Cambodia

11.3

188

Dem. Republic of the Congo

9.1

189

Nepal

8.4

190

Sri Lanka

7.4

191

Viet Nam

6.4

192

Bangladesh

6.1

193

Malaysia

5.6

193

Ethiopia

5.6

194

Eritrea

4.4