Globesity Reigns


Poor Atlas, that mythological figure who must carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. Since 1980, he has noticed it getting heavier. There are now four times as many overweight and obese adults as in 1980, according to the Future Diets report issues by the Overseas Development Institute.

Put another way, this means one in three people is overweight. Consequently, humans are having a lot more diabetes, strokes, and heart attacks. Most of the damage occurs in what is called the “developing world,” or what used to be called the Third World. In developing countries, 904 million people are now considered overweight or obese. In China and Mexico, obesity rates have almost doubled since the year picked for the beginning of measurement for this report.

In May, Maggie Fox for NBC News wrote about another study that used 1980 as its starting point, this one performed by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Fox says:

Perhaps most troubling, kids are heavier than ever…. The percentage of overweight or obese children and teenagers has increased by nearly 50 percent since 1980 and now more than 22 percent of girls and nearly 24 percent of boys in developed countries are overweight or obese.

And according to this survey, nearly one-third of the world’s population (around 2.1 billion people) is overweight or obese. Not a single country among the 188 surveyed has succeeded in lowering its obesity rate since 1980. Among them, the United States is most extreme. In 12 of our states, the adult obesity rate is over 30%. We have 5% of the earth’s population and 13% of its obese inhabitants. Fox writes:

The U.S. has 78 million obese adults, the highest number of any country in the world, even China, with four times the population. Nearly three-quarters of American men and more than 60 percent of women are obese or overweight, it finds. And nearly 30 percent of U.S. children and teens are either obese or overweight, up from 19 percent in 1980.

The Institute’s director, Dr. Christopher Murray, told the reporter that as incomes continue to rise in formerly poor countries, obesity rates will continue to rise too. In other countries, as in the U.S., obesity causes or exacerbates a number of medical problems and leads to massive suffering, incredible expense, and preventable early death. It has been suggested that obesity accounts for pretty darn close to 20% of deaths in the U.S.

“Rapport” is a French word that means something like “We’re on the same page with this,” whether in intellectual understanding, emotional resonance, or both. UN literature says:

A Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. This position is honorary and the expert is not United Nations staff nor paid for his/her work.

When visiting a country, the Special Rapporteur interacts with governmental and nongovernmental bodies, expecting free access to the relevant facts. The “Special Rapporteur on the right to food” is Dr. Olivier De Schutter, who gave a speech at the annual summit meeting of the World Health Organization earlier this year.

He told the assemblage that in the 10 years since WHO began its Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, governments have focused on increasing food availability but have not carefully considered the quality of the available calories, the price, or the marketing methods behind this availability. In his opinion, the junk food problem is not taken as seriously as it needs to be, and the most quotable portion of his address deemed unhealthy diets a bigger threat to global health than tobacco use. Charlotte Alter wrote:

The Special Rapporteur has previously agitated for greater governmental action on junk foods, including taxing unhealthy products, regulating fats and sugars, cracking down on advertising for junk food, and rethinking agricultural subsidies that make unhealthy food cheaper.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Obesity quadruples to nearly a billion in developing world,”, 01/04/14
Source: “The Whole World is Getting Fatter, New Survey Finds,”, 05/27/14
Source: “Factsheet 27,”, April 2001
Source: “Obesity a bigger global threat than tobacco: UN,”, 05/19/14
Image by Contando Estrelas

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