A slowdown in average BMI in high-income countries


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Obesity rates worldwide have taken on decidedly disturbing dimensions in recent times. For example, it is currently estimated that approximately 38 per cent of the global population is now classified as overweight. It is nonetheless interesting to point out that the actual obesity growth rate (the proportion of individuals who are diagnosed as clinically obese) is changing in relation to where individuals happen to live.

What trends have recently come to light and how might these impact the not-so-distant future? Considering the fact that we all live within an increasingly international community, it only makes sense to take a closer look.

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What Country Has the Highest Proportion of Obese Citizens?

Many of us automatically assume that Americans represent the most obese population on the planet. However, this is actually not the case. The three most obese nations are Nauru (61 per cent), the Cook Islands (55.9 percent) and Palau (55.3 per cent). Believe it or not, the United States currently occupies 12th place at 36.2 per cent.

Furthermore, the rates of obesity in high income countries seem to be leveling off. At first glance, this might appear to indicate that the global population has begun to lead healthier lifestyles. Things now begin to get a bit interesting. While some western nations may be experiencing a slowdown, obesity in low income countries is actually on the rise. What are some proposed reasons behind this rather starting observation?

BMI in high income countries

The Relationship Between Wealth and Obesity

One highly engaging study has found that there is a positive correlation between obesity and wealth. This actually makes perfect sense when we consider that impoverished nations are prone to serious health issues such as malnutrition, disease and early death. In other words, environmental and economic variables will inevitably impact the body mass index of a given population.

The issue here is that many countries that were at one time associated with extreme poverty are now gaining access to modern resources while being equipped with reliable infrastructure. As per capita income also increases, consumers will have more access to foods that would have been out of their financial reach in the past. Although this is excellent news in regard to quality of life, obesity rates worldwide are likely to increase as a result.

A Focus Upon Extreme Obesity

Now, we need to address yet another variable within this equation. While obesity rates within developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom may be starting to plateau, the same cannot be said in terms of severe obesity. Severe obesity is associated with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher.

Currently, approximately 20 percent of the United States population is estimated to fall into this category. Figures suggest that this proportion could rise to a staggering 36 percent if the current trend continues. Obesity in high income countries (in general) is likewise expected to double within the same time period.

Highlighting a Truly Global Epidemic

There are many reasons which can be attributed to the ongoing obesity pandemic. Universally accepted factors include leading a more sedentary lifestyle, increased levels of perceived emotional stress and the prevalence of processed foods. It should also be highlighted that even citizens of low-income countries have a greater access to calorie-dense foods when compared to previous decades. This is why the global population is experiencing what some industry experts have already termed an “obesity transition”.

What Steps Can be Taken?

Governmental intervention is obviously critical in terms of regulating what types of foods are being offered to the population. Obesity education is another powerful approach and children should be made aware of the associated risks at an early stage.

However, individuals are ultimately responsible for the foods that they consume and their personal choices. This is why it is often said that eradicating obesity begins on a personal level. Adopting a well-balanced diet, obtaining plenty of exercise and managing stress are three effective strategies. Cutting-edge technologies such as the use of an adjustable Spatz3 gastric balloon can also provide impressive results for those who might have otherwise hit a mental or physical weight-loss barrier.

Above all, governments around the world must begin treating overweight trends as they would any other disease that threatens a population. This is one of the only ways in which obesity rates worldwide can be proactively addressed in order to ensure a bright future for generations to come.

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