Obesity: Mardi Gras - how fat are people this Tuesday?


21/02/2012 - The quick answer - still far too fat. More people in developed countries are overweight or obese than ever before, dooming them to years of ill-health with diabetes, heart and other circulatory system diseases, and cancers. The OECD today releases its latest review of trends in obesity across the developed world.


Obesity rates vary widely across OECD countries, from a low of 4% in Japan and Korea to 30% or more in the United States and Mexico.




There is some good news. New data for 10 countries show that over the past decade obesity rates slowed or stopped growing in England, Hungary, Italy, Korea and Switzerland, and grew only 2 - 3% in France and Spain. In Canada, Ireland and the US, however, they increased 4 - 5%. And the rate of childhood obesity in England, France, Korea and the US has stabilized. Part of the reason could be that most governments have stepped up efforts to tackle the root causes of obesity, with some looking at taxing foods heavy in fat and sugar and several (e.g. Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary) passing new legislation in 2011.


OECD data show that obesity is also an inequality issue. The 10-years trend shows that women with low levels of education and income are 2 to 3 times more likely to be overweight than well-educated women in most countries, and no progress has been made in redressing these disparities. For men, money doesn’t help - there’s little difference in the obesity rates of the rich and the poor.


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Note: Body mass index (BMI), a measurement which compares weight and height, defines people as overweight if their BMI is greater than 25 kg/m2, and obese when it is greater than 30 kg/m2.

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