Americans Are Fat — and So Is Almost Everyone Else

by Kevin Jon Heller

I notice it every time I’m in the States — Americans seem really, really fat. And so they are: according to recent Calorie Lab statistics, more than 50% of the people in every state in the Union are either clinically obese (BMI 30%+) or clinically overweight (BMI 25%+). Mississippians are the fattest, more than 66% of the population, while Coloradans (which include me) are the “slimmest,” at “only” 55%.

Here’s the map of obesity rates:

To be fair, being obese or overweight is an international problem. Worldwide, more than 1.6 billion adults are overweight and at least 400 million are obese. Europe is particularly fat: the obese or overweight rate is 60% in Scotland, 58% in England, 53% in Austria, 51% in Germany, 49% in Poland and Hungary, and 48% in Greece, Ireland, and Portugal. The Swedes, Dutch, Italians, Belgians, and Romanians are the slimmest in Europe, all coming in at less than 39%. But those countries pale in comparison to China and Japan, whose obesity rates are less than 5%.

Here is a nice visual representation of obesity rates in OECD countries:

I have no profound point to make, other than to note that McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, and Pizza Hut are no less WMDs than anthrax and sarin. As the World Heart Federation notes with characteristic understatement, worldwide obesity rates have risen because “diets have moved from being plant-based to high-fat, energy-dense animal-based diets.” Kudos to Mayor Bloomberg for banning trans fats in New York City!

I would, however, kill for a Taco Bell in Auckland…

P.S.: I was very surprised that 21% of Kiwis are obese, given how active and outdoorsy they tend to be. Sadly, I think it’s very much a racial thing, reflecting the sizable (pun not intended) Pacific Islander population in New Zealand. The most obese nations in the world are in the Western Pacific: in Nauru, 80% of men and 79% of women are obese; in Tonga, it’s 47% and 70%; and in Samoa, it’s 33% and 63%.

One Response

  1. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 30 years (and we never buy fast food; well, that’s not completely true, on occasion [i.e., when money’s tight and my wife has worked longer than her usual 10 hr. shift] we do eat bean & rice burritos from Taco Bell) and I got a bit overweight beginning in my 40s. I was simply eating as much as I did back when I was a carpenter (and my metabolism was different). I had to drastically cut back on portion size, eliminate late night snacking (OK, you got me again: I do indulge at times with cinammon toast and a glass of milk), and religiously exercise, including riding my bicycle to school, to lose weight. I’m still about 40 lbs. more than I was when I got married, but I’m 50 lbs. lighter than I was a year ago.

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