The U.S. is No Longer the World’s Most Obese Country – Guess Who Took Our Place?

The U.S. is No Longer the World’s Most Obese Country – Guess Who Took Our Place?

If there’s one thing the United States has excelled at, it’s super-sizing our meals and our citizens. But while we used to hold the dubious title of world’s fattest nation, we’ve recently lost our spot. Thanks to the introduction of Western goods like flour, sugar, soda and fried foods, Pacific Islanders have not just followed our lead in the weight race, but beaten us at our own game. Prepare for a shock: more than 74 percent of American Samoans are now overweight (compared to “just” 30 percent of Americans).

Experts have theorized that Pacific Islanders are predisposed to obesity,  but it seems clear now that genetics alone cannot explain the spike in body mass. “The islands were colonised by Australian, American, New Zealand, British or French nations after the Second World War,” says the Daily Mail, “and the diets and social changes introduced blamed for soaring obesity rates.”

These fantastic charts from Clinic Compare that break down obesity rates around the world:

obesitymap

obesitychart1

 

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6 Comments

  1. Tim C

    I agree with your overall premise that adoption of a western diet drives obesity rate.

    There’s only so long that obesity rates can go up, all things being equal, before homeostasis is found. I think that insulin levels (and the individual’s sensitivity to insulin) is the primary prerequisite to obesity. You’re right that flour, sugar, and soda are primary drivers of obesity, but I disagree that fried foods are primary; though they usually have flour in them, and certainly do increase obesity rates to some extent, I think they’re secondary to foods containing fructose and rapidly available glucose.

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  2. Ivan

    Agreed. Our culture and lifestyle has become one of a dangerous cocktail of fast food and slow living. Too many people seem to relish the ease and immediate satisfaction that comes from processed food and believe that work and effort are both four-letter words.

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  3. Infidel753

    True. I can believe that only 30% of Americans technically qualify as obese, but one only has to look at any crowded street to see that far more than 30% are seriously overweight.

    Looking at the map, the pattern is: “Being rich makes you fat, unless you’re East Asian (or French, Italian, or Swedish)”. Rich countries have a vast abundance of food, much of it meat or things rich in refined sugar and other sources of useless calories. Starvation is no longer the issue — in rich countries, it’s usually the poorest people who have the highest obesity rates. Rich countries also have an abundance of labor-saving devices which encourage people to avoid exertion.

    In East Asia the stigma on being overweight is much greater than in most societies, which may account for the relatively low obesity levels even in rich East Asian countries — people have more incentive to avoid getting fat. France, Italy, and Sweden, I have no idea — healthier traditional diets maybe?

    I don’t think genetics has anything to do with it. Look at pictures from as recently as the 1960s that show crowds of Americans, and it’s obvious that the problem was nothing like as bad as it is today. What’s changed is what people eat and how much of it, and sedentary lifestyles.

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  4. Paulo A Franke

    I see a bit of mixed up use of the terms overweight and obese in the text.
    The usual classification utilizes the Body Mass Index (body mass divided by squared height, in MY international units, sorry about that):
    BMI up to 25 = Normal
    BMI bw 25 and 30 = Overweight
    BMI above 30 = Obese
    Most recent numbers from Gallup, for the USA (rounded up):
    Normal (35%), Overweight (35%), Obse (30%)
    Non-normal in the US of A (overweight + obese) are at a Gargantuan 65%. The DHS and the CIA should tackle these internal statistics, not terror threats from abroad. Way more dangerous!

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    • Lady Freethinker

      Thank you Paulo – you’re correct that obesity and overweight are not the same things!

      –Nina

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  5. Ivan

    Interesting that these maps leave out the total population numbers of the respective countries. In terms of sheer numbers, I should think that 30% of our total population in the U.S. gives us about 10M people suffering from obesity. I doubt the total populations of people with obesity in the smaller nations shown can top that number, even if they were combined. (But this is no excuse for the west ruining their diets.)

    On the other hand, the U.S. probably easily tops the rankings when it comes to “obscenity”: too many starving and poor, too many under-educated and homeless, and far too much money squandered on the military…as if the differential between the wealth of the 1% and the lack of wealth of the remaining 99% was not obscene enough, in and of itself.

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