The world’s most obese nations may surprise you
The world’s most obese nations may surprise you
After the sad death of the world's fattest man, Andres Moreno, who had weighed an incredible 70 stone (444 kg) at his peak, we look at one of the world's biggest concerns - the growing level of global obesity. Using the latest data from the World Health Organization, we count down the 30 most obese nations right now. Countries are ranked by the percentage of adults with a BMI over 30. The normal range sits at 18.50-24.99.
Increasingly sedentary lifestyles, a growing number of fast food outlets and cheap sugary snacks are the root cause of Egypt’s growing obesity problem with 28.9% of the population now obese.
This Pacific nation continues to battle the bulge with 29.2% of the population having a BMI above 30. This number has worsened since the WHO’s 2010 report where the nation sat at 26.5%. Here poverty and obesity have been closely linked with the blame largely placed on how much cheaper junk food is than fresh fruit and vegetables. Medical associations have requested taxes on sugary drinks and restrictions on the amount of fast food advertising.
While it remains in the same position on the list since the 2010 report, Turkey’s obesity levels have risen from 27% to 29.5%. Despite having easy access to all the ingredients to subside on the famed Mediterranean diet (fruit, vegetables and fish) one in three Turks are obese, with women making up more than half of the overall number.
This tiny landlocked nation is located high in the mountains of the Pyrenees between France and Spain. And despite a population of just 79,000 Andorra’s obesity ranking is alarmingly high at 29.5%, a number which has only increased since 2010 (when it was 27.5%).
The Arab nation has also increased its obesity levels with 30.5% of the population found to have a BMI over 30. A study in the Eastern Medicine Health Journal found the majority of obese female Jordanians lived in the central and urban areas. Those who smoke and have a low income are also more likely to be overweight or obese.
While the nation has dropped down the rankings overall, the overall percentage of obese people has still increased from 28.4% in 2010 to 30.9% in 2014. As in Jordan, people who live in urban locations were more likely to be obese than those who lived in rural areas. A report in the Lancet cited lack of physical exercise and unhealthy eating habits as a major factor in the country.
One of the Caribbean’s most prosperous nations is also one of its most obese with 30.9% of the population recording a BMI of 30 or more. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization cited urban lifestyles and rising incomes, coupled with malnourishment, among the islands’ poor as the reason for such high obesity levels.
The twin island nation has jumped four places up the list, with its obesity percentage now sitting at 31.1%. The expanding fast food industry in the Caribbean remains one of its nations’ biggest challenges in combating rising obesity rates.
The picturesque island is battling a growing obesity problem. The 2014 report found that 31.3% of the population are obese, up from 28.3% in 2010. A WHO study revealed Barbados has the highest cancer burden because of weight-related issues.
Lebanon continues to battle a obesity problem with 31.9% of population obese, up nearly three percentage points from the 2010 report (28.4%). Studies have cited poor dietary practices and low levels of education to be the main reasons behind the surge.
Of the six million people living in this North African nation 33.1% are obese. A study from the Libyan Journal of Medicine found that one of the major factors is their diet. This is heavy in rice and wheat products like bread and pasta but low in fruit and vegetables. The study also found there is an overall decrease in exercise with a move to a more sedentary lifestyle.
While many people might expect the US to sit at the top of the list, only 33.7% of the population are actually obese, although that figure doesn’t include those who are overweight (BMI of 25-30). And that number has only worsened since the 2010 report. The main culprit? The fast food industry where portions have doubled in size in the past 20 years and which remains cheaper than healthy alternatives.
Along with a fast-growing economy there is also a growing rate of obesity in Saudi Arabia. Dietary influences from the Western world are to blame for the country’s 34.7% obesity rate, up from 32% in 2010. The population has also become less active.
The obesity crisis got so bad in this Middle Eastern nation the country’s Ministry of Health was forced to open nutrition clinics across Bahrain in an effort to tackle rising numbers. In the latest report 35.1% of the Bahrain population was reported as obese.
According to the WHO, the reason behind Vanuatu’s rising obesity problem (35.5%) is due to the nation’s people swapping traditional, healthier foods for imported, processed alternatives.
The Bahamas obesity rate has jumped nearly three percentage points since the 2010 report, now sitting at a devastating 36.2%. A study in the West Indian Medical Journal found that women in lower-income households appear to be the most vulnerable.
While Fiji’s WHO obesity rate sits at 36.4% the actual number could be much higher, according to health professionals. While most of its neighboring islander nations feature in the top 10 most obese countries, Fiji sits in the middle of the pack mainly due to its mixed ethnicity, and therefore mixed diets. Just over half of the nation are native iTaukei, with the remainder mostly of Indian origin.
The Pacific nation of Micronesia, made of up some 600 islands, has jumped nearly two percentage points since the 2010 report to 37.2%. Like many of the countries on this list, urbanization and the influence of Western culture are to blame for the growing numbers.
A fast developing economy, improvements in technology and a climate that isn’t conducive to outdoor exercise are cited as causes of the UAE’s growing obesity crisis. While 37.2% of the population is obese, data from the International Diabetes Federation reveals a staggering 19% (803,900) of the population are suffering from diabetes, with that number set to sky rocket to 1.8 million in the next few years.
Thanks to its large oil reserves, this small Gulf nation has transformed into one of the world’s richest countries per capita. But the swollen economy has led to swollen bellies – around 39.7% of the population are obese. A harsh climate, cultural gatherings which involve feasting, coupled with growing fast food outlets, are all contributing factors.
Despite having a population of just 9,800 people Tuvalu, which is comprised of nine islands, has an obesity rate of 40.3%. That’s jumped nearly two percentage points since 2010 (38.4%). Some researchers have suggested Pacific Islanders have a genetic disposition to obesity because their metabolism has learned to cope over thousands of years with periods of famine by quickly storing surplus calories as body fat.
Traditional healthy diets of fish and vegetables are being replaced by processed, imported foods in the Central Pacific island of Kiribati where 40.6% of the population are obese.
The tiny oil-rich Middle Eastern nation has seen its obesity rate rise with its economy to a staggering 42.3%. The influx of fast food eateries like McDonald’s and KFC are constantly popping up in air-conditioned malls around the country with the government making few strides to curb the growing issue.
The island nation, which is located near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, continues to see its obesity numbers rise, currently sitting at 42.8%. A high number of the population suffer from diabetes.
Located around 1,500 miles (2,400km) northeast of New Zealand, Nuie has a population of just over 1,000 people. Of those a shocking 43.2% are obese. Like many of its neighbors, poor diet, lack of physical activity and access to insufficient health care are to blame for the burgeoning numbers.
With 43.3% of the nation’s population obese, Tonga is the fifth fattest country in the world, 40% of the population have type 2 diabetes and life expectancy is falling. While Tongans’ traditional diet consists of root vegetables, coconuts and fish, many are choosing a cheap alternative, mutton flaps, imported from New Zealand. Reports say it’s not uncommon for Tongans to eat up to a kilo of the meat in one sitting and every 100g includes 40g of fat.
Like Tonga, Samoa also struggles with cheap imported meats. So much so that the nation banned the import of turkey tails in 2007. According to the report, 43.4% of the population is obese.
Coming in as the third fattest nation is the tiny island of Nauru. Of its 10,000 citizens, 45.6% are obese. The health crisis has grown as a result of the import of Western foods paid for with proceeds from phosphate mining. One of the nation’s most popular dishes is fried chicken and coke.
Part of the Micronesia region in the Pacific Ocean, Palau’s obesity rate continues to soar, with 47.6% of its residents battling the bulge as they increasingly choose fried over fresh food.
Topping the list is the Cook Islands where more than half of their population – 50.8% – is obese. Colonial influences from the West, where residents have been taught to fry their fish rather than eat it raw, coupled with processed imports have seen this country’s obesity rate soar to devastating proportions.