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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 15, 2011
3:26 PM

CONTACT: Worldwatch Institute

Julia Tier
jtier@worldwatch.org
+1 202.452.1999 x594

Nearly Two Billion People Worldwide Now Overweight

WASHINGTON - June 15 - There are now approximately 1.934 billion people worldwide who are overweight, a 25 percent increase since 2002, a new Worldwatch analysis shows. A survey of statistics in 177 countries shows 38 percent of adults – those 15 years or older – are now overweight. The trend is strongly correlated to rising income and to an increase in preventable health problems, writes Richard H. Weil in the latest Vital Signs Online release from the Worldwatch Institute.

The trend over the last decade toward heavier populations cuts across regions and income levels. In India, 19 percent of adults are overweight, up from 14 percent in 2002. In Mexico, the figure has risen by 8 percentage points since 2002, while Brazil’s is up by 7 points and the rate in the U.K. is up by 5 points. East Asia has seen a 4 point increase over the period. The United States leads all industrialized countries with 78.6 percent of the adult population overweight, although Micronesia and Polynesia top all countries. There, nearly 88 percent of the over-15 population is overweight.

“Overweight” is defined as people with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater. A person with a BMI of 30 or above is usually labeled “obese,” but here the term overweight covers overweight and obese populations combined.

That analysis shows that some 75 percent of adults in the 10 richest countries are overweight, while in the 10 poorest, only 18 percent are. On a regional level, the correlation between income and being overweight holds reasonably well. Europe generally has elevated levels, for example, while low-income sub-Saharan Africa averages lower BMI levels. At a national level, however, the situation is more complex. A comparison of percentages of people overweight in all countries and their GDPs reveals a positive but weak correlation, with cultural, societal, and possibly genetic factors playing heavily into the mix.

For more information, please visit http://vitalsigns.worldwatch.org/vs-trend/levels-overweight-rise.

Note to Editors: Journalists can obtain a complimentary copy of this Vital Signs Online by contacting Russell Max Simon at rsimon@worldwatch.org.

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The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Its mission is to generate and promote insights and ideas that empower decision makers to build an ecologically sustainable society that meets human needs.


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