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Worldwide Obesity Trends

The worldwide incidence of obesity is increasing. In fact a new word – “globesity” has now been coined to reflect the escalation of global obesity and overweight. In 1998, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report entitled “Obesity: Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic”, which classified obesity as a growing epidemic. According to WHO, if immediate action is not taken, millions will suffer from an array of serious weight-related disorders.

Global Overweight Now Rivals Underweight

For the first time, the number of overweight individuals around the world rivals the number who are underweight. Developing nations have also joined the ranks of countries troubled by obesity. A 1999 United Nations (UN) survey found obesity growing in all developing regions, even in countries beset by hunger. In China, the number of overweight people rose from less than 10 percent to 15 percent in just three years. In Brazil and Colombia, the figure of overweight is about 40 percent – comparable with a number of European countries. Even sub-Saharan Africa, where most of the world’s hungry live, is seeing an increase in obesity, especially among urban women. In all regions, obesity appears to escalate as income increases.

Obesity in the West

In the United States, obesity is the most common chronic disease, affecting more than 1 in 4 of all Americans, including children, and its incidence has been steadily increasing for the past 20 years. In Europe, Australia/New Zealand, the Middle East, and the remaining portions of the Americas, the occurrence of obesity appears to be increasing and is now between 10 and 20 percent. The prevalence of obesity is still fairly low in China, Japan, and many countries in Africa.

Global Obesity Levels

Table 1. Percentage of Obese Adults in Europe and Australia

This obesity data is displayed as a guide only, as obesity statistics are constantly updated.

Country Percentage of Obese Men Percentage of Obese Women
Finland 19 19
Russia 10.8 27.9
England 17 20
Germany 17.2 19.3
Czech 16.3 20.2
Scotland 15.9 17.3
Belgium 12.1 18.4
Spain 11.5 15.2
Sweden 10 11.9
France 9.6 10.5
Denmark 10 9
Holland 8.4 8.3
Italy 6.5 6.3
Australia 18 18

Sources: International Obesity Task Force (IOTF)

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