The Most Obese Countries in the World (2024)

April 16, 2024

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World obesity rates are rapidly increasing. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than one billion people worldwide are now obese.

High obesity rates can be explained by a number of factors, such as the increasing availability of cheap, processed food products, wider advertising and marketing of junk food, more people struggling with mental health, a lack of access to healthcare, and people becoming less active due to long working hours.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the obesity rates in different countries, explain how obesity is determined, and list some of the common health consequences caused by obesity.

What are the most obese countries in the world?

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, the ten most obese countries are:

RankCountry% of obesity in population
1Nauru61%
2Cook Islands55.90%
3Palau55.30%
4Marshall Islands52.90%
5Tuvalu51.60%
6Niue50%
7Tonga48.20%
8Samoa47.30%
9Kiribati46%
10Micronesia45.80%

What is BMI?

BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It is a calculation of your height and weight measurements that determines whether your weight is healthy. The BMI calculation divides your weight (in kilograms) by your height (in square meters). For young people aged between two and 18, the calculation also takes age and gender into account.

The ideal BMI for adults is between 18.5 and 24.9.

The BMI is a useful indicator of how healthy a person’s weight is. However, it is important to understand that it is just a guide, and healthcare professionals also take other factors into account when determining healthy weight. Athletes, for example, may have an unhealthy BMI but be a healthy weight because muscle is denser than fat.

What is the difference between being overweight and being obese?

People who are overweight or obese have irregular or excessive fat in their bodies, which can cause health problems.

A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is classed as overweight. A BMI of 30 or more is classed as obese, and a BMI of more than 60 is classed as super obese.

What are some common health consequences of obesity?

As mentioned, obesity can cause health problems. In severe cases, it can even lead to death. Some of the diseases that obesity is linked to include:

Diabetes

The main disease associated with obesity is diabetes. Overweight people are more likely to develop this disease, which in turn leads to a greater risk of other health conditions like blindness, amputation, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease.

Coronary heart disease

Obesity can cause fat to build up in the blood vessels that carry blood to organs like your heart. If these get clogged, it can cause a heart attack.

Cancer

Excess fat sends signals to the rest of the body, which can tell cells to divide more often and lead to certain types of cancer. Obesity has been linked to colon cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and kidney cancer, for example.

COVID-19

Having a high BMI also increases the risk of falling seriously ill with COVID-19. Obese people with COVID-19 are more likely to be admitted to hospital or intensive care, and they are at more risk of dying from the disease.

Obesity Rates by Country

As you can see from the table of the ten most obese countries in the world, island nations in Oceania have the highest obesity rates, with around half their populations classed as obese.

The Middle Eastern countries of Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates also rank highly in terms of obesity. These countries all appear in the top 20.

More than a third (36.2 percent) of Americans are obese, making the US the twelfth most obese country in the world. Mexico is the twenty-eighth most obese country in the world, with 28.9 percent of its population classed as obese.

With only between 2.1 and 5 percent of their populations classed as obese, the least obese nations are Vietnam, Bangladesh, East Timor, India, Cambodia, Nepal, Japan, Ethiopia, South Korea, and Eritrea. Interestingly, most of these are Asian countries.

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