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Statistics on International Obesity Epidemic

The Whole World Has Opinions on Obesity

What began as an American epidemic has gone global and the health issues surrounding obesity are now felt around the world. According to a World Health Organization report, one billion adults are overweight worldwide and three million are considered obese. These figures prompted Reader's Digest to poll 16,000 people from 16 countries about weight and weight loss.

  • While 70 percent of Russians are more likely to blame their genes for their weight issues (in the US the figure is only 20 percent), the French are most likely to point the finger at the US for having a hand in the international obesity epidemic. The French believe American fast food has created poor eating habits worldwide.
  • Using cigarettes and appetite suppressants are no way to shed pounds, but in Russia,18 percent of women admit to smoking cigarettes in order to lose weight. In the US, only five percent employs this hazardous technique.

To learn which country wishes there was a magic pill for losing weight


  • China has the highest usage of diet pills with 37 percent reporting trying to drop pounds with the help of a pill. The gender split, however, is enlightening for 48 percent of Chinese women admit to taking diet pills compared to 18 percent of men.
  • The gender split in the US on the state of our mates, is interesting as well — 51 percent of married women in the US would like to see their husband lose weight while only 47 percent of married men wish the same thing about their wives.
  • Internationally, the pressure to feel thin is highest in Brazil with 83 percent responding that there is too much emphasis on weight. The Brazilians are followed by India (68%) and the US (62%).
Join The Conversation
Allytta Allytta 7 years
i grew up in very healthy eating family in Europe. my mum made sure we had our protein and veggies every day. but i still got overweight on healthy food. it was just the amount of it. as our family got richer - i got fatter. constant snacking is the problem. junk food as never in our house. i had my first burger when i was 14 probably. it was the first year macdonald's opened 300miles away from my house. but we still managed to visit it :)
flyowsley flyowsley 7 years
There definitely needs to be more education for the right things to eat. Healthier foods need to be more available in our schools. I also think that we as Americans rely on our cars too much. I remember when I lived in NYC, I rarely needed to exercise, because I walked everywhere (same as when I was in college). Now that I have my car back my fat ass is much harder to get rid of. The best way to get rid of the the pounds is to get rid of your car.
tabloidprincess tabloidprincess 7 years
That is true about Brasil.
syako syako 7 years
The logic that when McDs opened up in my country, the obesity rate went up because of McDs is faulty. Perhaps you should consider why McDs decided to open up in your country in the first place? Maybe it's because people there started to pick up the spending and eating habits that fares well for fast food joints before McD's opened, and the McDs people saw this as a trend, jumped on it, and capitalized. Not that I'm saying they are free of blame, but just realize that correlations do not equal causation.
yeokr yeokr 7 years
of course i don't think anyone should just blame fast food on America and leave it there.. but retorting that there is no blame on anyone but the overweight person won't quite cut it either.. there is not enough education and advertisement of better food choices. i also believe that not enough people know how to cook for themselves at this point. if i had my way, there would be more home ec type courses in high schools before students were out of the house and depending on convenience food items/fast food or whatever is in the cafeteria.
sourcherry sourcherry 7 years
I'm not saying America is to blame, but from what I deprehend from American culture, it is a lot more difficult to stay thin there. For example, here in Portugal cooking at home with fresh vegetables is the rule, ordering take-out is still pretty rare. All you can eat buffets aren't common as well, for breakfast there aren't any pancake houses or anything of the like, most options are fairly healthy. When we want coffee we usually order an expresso, there are no huge mocha latte's being served at every corner... Even at dining halls at universities, we get a well portioned healthy meal, and most people opt for soup as an entrée... But obviously we have our own bad habits...For starters, a lot of the traditional dishes are pretty fattening... And we also have a lot of junk food available, but it just doesn't seem to be so in-your-face as in the U.S..
LaurenG22 LaurenG22 7 years
Americans are lazy, pure and simple. Fast food is easy. Going to the market, chopping veggies, cooking dinner is not easy. Which will the majority choose? I am an American living in Germany right now. Even with the beer, the potatoes, sausages, etc Germans are still thinner on average then Americans. The lifestyle of walking to a lot of place, going to the market for fresh veggies, getting fresh bread, eating SMALL portions, etc allows them to eat potatoes, cream, beer, etc. The fast food here is surprisingly healthy as well. Sure there is a McDonalds but I would never pay 8.50 euro for a cheeseburger meal- that is close to 12 bucks!
arcticpuppet arcticpuppet 7 years
this is really interesting! i wonder if the epidemic will ever level out (or hopefully stop)?!
jor2590 jor2590 7 years
I read today that by 2030, 86% of Ameicans will be overweight. Such a sad reality that is so easy to change.
staple-salad staple-salad 7 years
I think one of the biggest problems regarding obesity in the US is the availability of healthy foods. On TV, there is a constant bombardment of unhealthy foods. Ads for fast food are everywhere, and our culture is really one of little time left for cooking. It's not promoted often "oh hey! Eat these fresh veggies without dip!" it's all "Eat our salads! We have ranch and crispy chicken options!" or "I lost 50lbs eating Taco Bell *******and cutting calories***** but I ate Taco Bell! EAT TACO BELL NOW!!!" There needs to be fewer ads for unhealthy things and more "MMMM... These organic country fresh carrots are exactly what I wanted! I like them with grilled chicken and brown rice!!" Meanwhile, kids in school are NOT getting healthy options. In elementary, middle, and high school, our food options included mostly pre-frozen pizza and cheeseburgers with a salad option that was smothered in dressing and I found several bugs in it. Rarely was there the option of a lean protein, a decent vegetable or a whole grain starch or carb. Now I'm in college. I pay 14k for room and board, and I have to go grocery shopping if I want something NOT smothered in fat. Our food options are considerably healthier than in grade school (and are made fresh in-house instead of pre-packaged and frozen for the most part... and I work in campus food service, so I see how it's made most every day), however, it's been several days since I've been able to get a decent meal, because our only options for protein have been lasagna, fatty cuts of beef/pork, deep fried, or smothered in cheese (or all four). I've been waiting for days for salmon or grilled skinless chicken breast for a week now. For a strapped for cash college student living on campus, food here is nearly impossible some days, and I find myself eating much more fatty foods or more calories than intended simply because it's the only option. In addition, kids are getting the wrong information. Of course, the parents have a responsibility to teach their kids good eating habits, but often the schools are doing a very poor job of enforcing it. In high school, I remember doing a nutrition project where we were to calculate our allotted daily calories and keep a food journal. My daily calories came to over 4,000, and NOBODY ever corrected it. Recently one of my friends told me that they purposefully skewed the numbers because some girls were suspected of being anorexic, but nothing was done to help me and several other of my classmates who were obese. IN ADDITION too much emphasis is being put on BMI (in the school systems), so people who are of a healthy or unhealthy weight aren't exactly getting the right measure. My BMI is roughly 38, or borderline morbidly obese, and while I'll admit I'm fat (and have a few rolls... I think most of my fat is on my midriff), my body fat percentage is somewhere around 33-35% which is JUST at the highest point of the "normal" range (I have really big bones and big muscles). I think the US does have some degree of influence on the obesity of other countries, since American fast food companies promote abroad and whatnot, however, I think it's more the traditional high-calorie, high-fat diets in many European countries that's really to blame. A high-calorie diet is fine if you're as active as cultures were a while ago, however, now where most jobs are just standing and sitting all day, traditional foods and those that have evolved from them have more calories than someone's going to burn in a day. Sure, it's easy to think "Oh a few hundred years ago obesity wasn't a problem!" but that's because only the rich people could afford to eat high-fat foods and feast, while the poorer people were eating healthier foods (sometimes), and less of it while getting more exercise. Now, the high-fat, high-calorie foods are the ones that can be afforded by the poor.
d4d d4d 7 years
Why are other countries blaming the US? Sure we like to blame the fast food industry for the rise of obesity, but we also look at personal responsibility. Just because its there doesn't mean you have to eat it.
flyowsley flyowsley 7 years
The US does not force that McDonald's cheeseburger down your throat. You make your own choices. Step up people and blame yourself for your own actions.
Spectra Spectra 7 years
Considering obesity is a worldwide problem, I don't think America is to blame for it; it's just that countries that are developing and modernizing are getting cheaper food and are eating more. I'd hate to live in sounds like living hell for anyone without a slamming-good body. I'm short, blonde, and small-chested; I would not fit in well in a country of tall, dark, big-breasted hotties.
tuliprush tuliprush 7 years
I like that the French blame the US b/c of our example of poor eating habits...because I kinda agree with that! I'm so anti-fast food though, and the capitalist-loving side of me SHOULD think "They're fulfilling a demand. The fast food places wouldn't be all over the US and the world if people stopped going.", but the crazy part of me thinks the government needs to step in and stop all the fast food growth, and actually pull it back.
ticamorena ticamorena 7 years
It's really interesting to hear about these stats. Half of my family are from Spain, and although northern spanish diet is not the worst, it is generally the antithesis of how I approach meals and food - eating meals late, sometimes even at 11 or midnight, eating everything put on your plate and eating several courses, there's always bread etc. On the other hand, I like that they eat as a family, a big breakfast isn't compulsory, lunch is the most important meal and there will always be fresh fruit and healthy salads served. As far as I'm concerned, each individual has to write their own rules when it comes to diet: I don't eat after 8, I only eat two meals per day, breakfast can be fat-free yofu and espresso, and I made my own food pyramid: fruit and veg at the top, followed by meat/fish, then desserts/chocolate, then carbs, laslty dairy (i'm lactose intolerant) or fats and I've never felt or looked better! But you have to know your limitations and act accordingly.
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