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Obesity Prevalence Around The Globe

Obesity has become an international problem.

For the past decade, obesity has been a significant concern in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35.7 percent of all American adults and 16.9 percent of American children are obese. The Centers for Disease Control would ultimately like to see the percentage of obese Americans under 15 percent.

Obesity Worldwide

While these numbers are likely to grab Americans’ attention, are other people around the world suffering in a similar way? A study published in the British medical journal Lancet found that 500 million adults worldwide are obese and 1.5 billion are overweight.

According to health officials, a person with a BMI of 25-29 is overweight and a BMI of 30 or greater is obese. While some researchers focus specifically on the “obese” population, many more data collections include those people who are “overweight” but not necessarily “obese.” This article will focus primarily on the “obese” people of the world’s regions.

Obesity In Oceania

The obesity epidemic has specifically affected the Pacific Islands. According to Michael Curtis’s study “The Obesity Epidemic in the Pacific Islands” published in the Journal of Development and Social Transformation, the people of Oceania, or island nations like Nauru, Samoa, American Samoa, and French Polynesia, suffer from obesity at levels up to 75 percent.

The World Health Organization reported in 2010, 96.9 percent of all men aged 15 and older in Nauru, one of the island nations, had a BMI of 25 or greater.

The obesity, Curtis argues, is caused by the people’s abandonment of a traditional island diet of lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables for a high-sugar, highly processed diet of foods that come from the West.

Obesity In Africa And The Middle East

Africa and the Middle East are made up of diverse countries in terms of wealth, ethnicity and obesity levels. Some countries like Saudi Arabia suffer from high levels of obesity (nearly 23 percent among men 15 and older), while other countries like Yemen have only a two percent obesity rate among males 15 and older. Some of these discrepancies are due to diet and nutrition, and in sub-Saharan African nations, malnutrition has kept levels of obesity low.

As these countries and some of their people have gained wealth, however, the levels of obesity have increased. The countries with the highest levels of obesity in this region include: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Libya; consequently also the ones that have made significant money.

Obesity In The United States And Canada

In addition to the nearly 37 percent of American adults who are obese, Canada also suffers from rising obesity figures. Canada now reports that 25 percent of adults are obese. Canadian aboriginals are also more likely to suffer from obesity than are non-aboriginal people.

Obesity In Central And South America

In Central and South America, including Mexico, more than 30 percent of the population is obese. The obesity problem in most of these countries originated in the wealthier populations, but those affected by poverty are now also suffering from obesity. In Central and South America, women are more likely to suffer from obesity than are men.

Obesity In Europe And Asia

Economic and gender trends like those in Central and South America do not necessarily hold in Europe. Europe’s diverse cultures have made the levels of obesity differ significantly among different countries. For example, in 2008, the BMI of British men and women was significantly higher than the BMI of men and women in France and Switzerland. In 2009, 25 percent of British adults were obese. According to the World Health Organization, men and women in Britain, Germany and Finland were most likely to suffer from obesity.

Obesity In Southeast And East Asia

Southeast and East Asia have traditionally been home to some of the lowest obesity levels in the world. The reason for low levels of obesity is twofold: A diet rich in lean meats, fruits and vegetables, and higher levels of poverty.

Yet, much like in Central and South America, as people have started to earn more money, the levels of obesity have risen. In 2009, nearly three percent of Chinese men and five percent of Chinese women were obese, and nearly 25 percent of the country was overweight. The levels of obesity in China, Japan, and India increase as the levels of income and the western influence in these countries does as well.

Obesity: An International Issue

Obesity is not just an American problem. People all around the world suffer from the health problems that accompany obesity. As the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention educate people about obesity, countries around the world fight to stop the epidemic.

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