UK & World News
Obesity Rates Triple In Developing World
The number of overweight and obese people has reached almost one billion in the developing world - overtaking rates in industrialised countries, a report has found.
The report by the UK's Overseas Development Institute said the number of obese people has more than tripled in the developing world since 1980.
In 2008, more than 900 million people in poor countries were classed as overweight compared with around 550 million in high-income countries - almost twice as many.
Steve Wiggins, the report's author, said: "The statistics are quite sensational, it is a tripling of the number of people who are considered overweight and obese in the developing world since 1980.
"That takes the number to more than 900 million and that is more than the number of overweight and obese people that we have in the high-income countries, which is probably around 570 million, something like that.
"It is a very rapidly emerging problem and it is now of a very large size."
Rates of obesity are still rising in richer countries, but not at the same rate as in the developing world.
Two countries with particularly high obesity rates are China and Mexico, where the numbers of overweight people have almost doubled since 1980.
In South Africa, obesity has risen by a third and now has a higher rate than the UK.
North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America all have similar overweight and obesity rates to Europe.
Explaining the developing world's obesity epidemic, Mr Wiggins said: "It is associated with incomes and urbanisation and a more sedentary lifestyle, so it is those emerging countries which have done the best at raising their incomes.
"It's the middle-income countries, it is the Chinas, it is the Mexicos, which are the countries which are seeing the highest rates of overweight and obesity at the moment."
The report predicts that if current rates continue there will be a huge increase in people suffering certain types of cancer, diabetes, strokes and heart attacks.
It also warns that governments are not doing enough to tackle the crisis, partly due to politicians' reluctance to interfere at the dinner table, the powerful farming and food lobbies and "a large gap" in public awareness as to what constitutes a healthy diet.
Countries singled out for praise in tackling obesity are Denmark and South Korea.
In Denmark, laws against trans-fatty acids have made Danish McDonalds among the healthiest in the world, while in South Korea the government launched a large-scale public education campaign 20 years ago which has turned around obesity rates.
Mr Wiggins said: "A few decades ago the government of Korea said we must encourage our traditional foods, which are low in fats and oils, high in vegetables, high in sea food and so on.
"And there was a lot of public education, a lot of training and a sense that Korean food is good for you."
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