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We’re Number Two!!! Obesity in America

Jul 10th, 2013

Obesity in America

Credit: Vinnie Lauria via Flickr

Congratulations America! We did it!  We’re no longer the world’s fattest developed country! It’s time to celebrate with cupcakes maybe?

According to a new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the percent of obesity in America among  adults is 31.8 percent, which is just one percent lower than the new reigning champion of obesity among developed countries, Mexico.

Mexico’s current rate of obesity is 32.8 percent. But why Mexico? Almost half of the country’s population is poor, and the government is waging a new campaign to battle hunger.

The U.N. report credits increasing incomes and urban lifestyle with the jump in Mexican obesity. Malnutrition in the form of cheap, unhealthy food among the country’s poor is also a major factor, according to the report.

At the moment heart disease and diabetes are the number one killers in Mexico. In fact it’s estimated that diabetes kills more than 70,000 people in Mexico every year. That’s roughly the same number of people killed in the six years of the country’s gang violence.

Reading the news stories about the report it all seems very similar to America’s obesity situation. You know what I’m talking about, the prevalence of junk food, the increasingly sedentary lifestyles, the lack of regular exercise.

So should we celebrating? Probably not. Even though we’ve lost our greasy crown, we’re still a long way from a country like Japan where only 4.5 percent of the population is obese.

Obesity  in America costs the United States $190 billion every year in medical costs, and another $164 billion in lost productivity. Not to mention that specifically childhood obesity costs us $14.3 billion a year. The numbers go on and on like that, which means that we certainly should not be celebrating Mexico’s fate. We’re not that much better off.

It’s not just a problem in North America. We seem to have exported our culture of gluttony around the world, and it’s taken root with gusto. On the list of the world’s fattest developed nations, the top six come in with at least 30 percent obesity rates. See the full table from the report:

 

Rank

Country

Rate

1

Mexico

32.8

2

United States

31.8

3

Syria

31.6

4

Venezuela

30.8

4

Libya

30.8

6

Trinidad & Tobago

30.0

7

Vanuatu

29.8

8

Iraq

29.4

8

Argentina

29.4

10

Turkey

29.3

11

Chile

29.1

12

Czech Republic

28.7

13

Lebanon

28.2

14

New Zealand

27.0

14

Slovenia

27.0

16

El Salvador

26.9

17

Malta

26.6

18

Panama

25.8

18

Antigua

25.8

20

Israel

25.5

21

Australia

25.1

21

Saint Vincent

25.1

22

Dominica

25.0

23

United Kingdom

24.9

23

Russia

24.9

25

Hungary

24.8

Source: United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization’s 2013 State of Food and Agriculture Report

Obesity is a problem world wide, which will have major economic implications for the future if it’s not addressed. In the United States at least there is some hope that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will help bring down America’s obesity rate. But the root of the problem is much more complex than just giving people access to health care.

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