According to the WHO, obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with more than 1 billion adults overweight - at least 300 million of them clinically obese - and is a major contributor to the global burden of chronic disease and disability. Often coexisting in developing countries with under-nutrition, obesity is a complex condition, with serious social and psychological dimensions, affecting virtually all ages and socioeconomic groups. Current obesity levels range from below 5% in China, Japan and certain African nations, to over 75% in urban Samoa. But even in relatively low prevalence countries like China, rates are almost 20% in some cities. (a.)
Increased consumption of more energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods with high levels of sugar and saturated fats, combined with reduced physical activity, have led to obesity rates that have risen three-fold or more since 1980 in some areas of North America, the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, Australasia and China.The obesity epidemic is not restricted to industrialized societies; this increase is often faster in developing countries than in the developed world. (a.)
Obesity and overweight pose a major risk for serious diet-related chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and certain forms of cancer. The health consequences range from increased risk of premature death, to serious chronic conditions that reduce the overall quality of life. Of especial concern is the increasing incidence of child obesity. (a.)
Obesity accounts for 2-6% of total health care costs in several developed countries; some estimates put the figure as high as 7%. The true costs are undoubtedly much greater as not all obesity-related conditions are included in the calculations. (a.) The U.S. is expected to spend $344 billion on health care costs attributable to obesity in 2018 if rates continue to increase at their current levels. Obesity-related direct expenditures are expected to account for more than 21 percent of the nation's direct health care spending in 2018. (b.)
The South Pacific nation of Nauru has the highest rate of obesity for both males and females.
According to a study by the WHO, Nauru is a country predisposed to obesity. Dating back to its inception as a country, obesity has been viewed as a sign of wealth and prosperity to Pacific Islanders. This idea has not changed over time, which is one of the main causes for the extremely high obesity rate in Nauru. After the World War II, as the island became part of the U.S. Trust Territory of Micronesia, imported foods like doughnuts, canned meats and flour slowly became a more prevalent part of the local diet. As phosphate mining replaced traditional agricultural as the island's principal economic activity, the population became increasingly dependent on these imported processed foods. Today, Nauru has the highest rate of obesity and diabetes in the world, with one third of the island's population suffering from diabetes and another 86.7% suffering from obesity. The life expectancy since World War II has consequently shortened by two decades. (c.)
Top 5 facts sources:
World Health Organization. (2010). Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health: Obesity and overweight Facts. Retrieved December, 2010.
The United Health Foundation and the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention. (2009). "The Future Costs of Obesity: National and State Estimates of the Impact of Obesity on Direct Health Care Expenses". Retrieved December 2010.
World Health Organization. (2002). "Obesity in the Pacific Too Big To Ignore". Retrieved December, 2010.