Obesity is recognized to pose quite a risk to an individual’s health and while it has always been assumed to be a very singular and personal issue, researchers have gone quite a step forward and have now in fact recognized obesity as being a global problem, so much so that they say that the world’s obese actually represent the equivalent of an extra billion people being added to the world’s population.
Of course while certainly not meant to discriminate, the research does present very valid points, particularly that if left unchecked, increasing fatness or obesity could pose a risk to “environmental sustainability.”
The study, conducted by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and published in the journal, BMC Public Health, took to calculating the total weight of all the people in the world, which, as Professor Ian Roberts, who helped author the study, said, was necessary because it was not the number of people that mattered, but their weight and consumption.
"When people think about environmental sustainability, they immediately focus on population. Actually, when it comes down to it - it's not how many mouths there are to feed, its how much flesh there is on the planet," said Roberts.
Using data acquired from a World Health Organization (WHO) 2005 study, researchers determined that the average global body weight was 62kg or 137lb. Multiplying this then with the world’s population, the researchers determined that the total weight of the world’s population was 287 million tonnes. However, 15 million tonnes of this was attributed to the overweight, while 3.5 million tonnes was due to the obese.
What was quite insightful about the study was the "weight distribution" across the globe. Asia, which accounts for 61 percent of the world’s population, only accounted for 13 percent of the world’s obese. North America, however, contributing only 6 percent to the world’s population, was responsible for a third of the world’s obese, the highest average for any region. Indeed, the regional body weight was also quite different, with the average in Asia being 57.7kg or 127lb, while in North America it was 80.7kg or 178lb.
Commenting, Prof. Roberts told the BBC, "If every country in the world had the same level of fatness that we see in the USA, in weight terms that would be like an extra billion people of world average body mass,” while comparing to Asia, "The Japanese example is quite strong. Average BMI (Body Mass Index) in USA in 2005 was 28.7. In Japan, it was 22. You can be lean without being really poor, and Japan seems to have pulled that off."
Prof. Roberts further said that if more countries started to have obese populations like North America, it would have “dramatic implications for the planet,” and would become an issue of “exceeding our planetary limits.”