RSS
The world's obesity 'tsunami': By the numbers
America is not alone. Global obesity has more than doubled over the last three decades
A new report finds that, as of 2008, one in 10 adults worldwide was obese.
A new report finds that, as of 2008, one in 10 adults worldwide was obese.
Corbis
A

merica isn't the only country with a weight problem. In fact, it's rare that a nation doesn't tip the scales too far. A new study, published in medical journal The Lancet, amassed data from 199 countries and numerous studies. The results point to a global obesity "epidemic" that could lead to a heart disease "tsunami." From 1980 to 2000, the worldwide rate of obesity more than doubled, and more than one in 10 adults is now considered obese. And while high cholesterol and high blood pressure are on the decline in Western nations, they're on the rise globally. Here, a brief guide, by the numbers:

Over 30
The body mass index (BMI) above which adults are considered obese

28
Average BMI for men and women in the United States, the highest among wealthy nations. This puts the typical American in the "overweight range."

9.8
Percent
of the world's men that are considered obese, up from 4.8 percent in 1980

 13.8
Percent of the world's women that are considered obese, up from 7.9 percent in 1980

8
Countries where the average BMI for men didn't rise from 1980 to 2008

19
Countries where the average BMI for women didn't rise from 1980 to 2008

 21.9
Average BMI for women in Japan (equivalent to 127 pounds for a 5' 4" woman). Women in other East Asian countries were "nearly as slim."
 

34 to 35
Average BMI among the population of Pacific Island nations, the highest average in the world

 

3 million
Estimated worldwide deaths caused each year by "obesity-related illnesses"

Nearly 10 percent
Estimated share of medical spending in the U.S. that goes toward "obesity-related diseases." That's approximately $147 billion a year.

More than 500 million
Estimated number of adults worldwide that were obese in 2008, according to the project. That's one in 10 adults. "With globalization, there's been increased availability of Western diets that have more prepared foods, fats and certain carbohydrates," says Jeffrey Sturchio of the Global Health Council.

600 million
People worldwide who had high blood pressure in 1980, according to the report

1 billion
People worldwide that had high blood pressure in 2008, according to the report. The Baltic countries, and West and East Africa reported the highest blood pressure levels, while levels fell in many European countries and North America. "Overweight and obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are no longer Western problems or problems of wealthy nations," says the new study's author, Majid Ezzati.

Sources: Washington Post, Businessweek, Reuters, BBC, ABC News, Web MD

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week