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It is often said that the United States is the fattest country in the world. Is it? Does it depend on how one measures fatness?

  • 7
    What is a fat country? – user unknown Mar 4 '12 at 2:49
  • It probably does depend how you measure. There's the proportion of people that are obese (used in the CIA World Factbook). However, that doesn't tell you how obese they are. Conceivably, in one country many people could be just over the obesity line, while in another they're far more obese than that cut-off. – Matthew Flaschen Mar 5 '12 at 8:51
  • @Matthew yes, that's why I welcome more answers with more definitions of "fattest country". – Sam I Am Mar 5 '12 at 15:32
  • 1
    I've also heard claims that Australia is the second fattest country, behind the US. This also seems to be dubious, based on the answers here. – Andrew Grimm Mar 6 '12 at 7:44
  • This also depend how small a country do you consider. Should you really consider small island nations with less than 100K residents in this statistic? – vartec Mar 14 '12 at 10:21
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The World Factbook is a reference publication by the United State's Central Intelligence Agency.

The World Factbook is prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency for the use of US Government officials, and the style, format, coverage, and content are designed to meet their specific requirements. Information is provided by Antarctic Information Program (National Science Foundation), Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center (Department of Defense), Bureau of the Census (Department of Commerce), Bureau of Labor Statistics (Department of Labor), Central Intelligence Agency, Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs, Defense Intelligence Agency (Department of Defense), Department of Energy, Department of State, Fish and Wildlife Service (Department of the Interior), Maritime Administration (Department of Transportation), National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (Department of Defense), Naval Facilities Engineering Command (Department of Defense), Office of Insular Affairs (Department of the Interior), Office of Naval Intelligence (Department of Defense), US Board on Geographic Names (Department of the Interior), US Transportation Command (Department of Defense), Oil & Gas Journal, and other public and private sources.

The World Factbook defines Obesity - adult prevalence rate as follows:

This entry gives the percent of a country's population considered to be obese. Obesity is defined as an adult having a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater to or equal to 30.0. BMI is calculated by taking a person's weight in kg and dividing it by the person's squared height in meters.

For countries where this information is published in the World Factbook, The United States of America is ranked #18 in the world with 33% of the population obese. Notably, some Middle Eastern and small island counties have higher obesity rates.

Rank  Country                     Percentage   Date of Info
1   American Samoa*                 74.60         2007
2   Nauru                           71.10         2008
3   Cook Islands                    63.70         2008
4   Tokelau                         63.40         2007
5   Tonga                           57.60         2008
6   Samoa                           54.10         2008
7   Palau                           48.90         2008
8   Kiribati                        46.00         2008
9   Marshall Islands                45.40         2008
10  Kuwait                          42.00         2008
11  Saint Kitts and Nevis           40.70         2008
12  Federated States of Micronesia  40.60         2008
13  The Bahamas                     34.70         2008
14  Barbados                        34.70         2008
15  Belize                          33.70         2008
16  Qatar                           33.20         2008
17  Egypt                           33.10         2008
18  United States                   33.00         2008
19  Saudi Arabia                    33.00         2008
20  Bahrain                         32.90         2008
21  Czech Republic                  32.70         2008
22  United Arab Emirates            32.70         2008
23  Mexico                          32.10         2008

*American Samoa is an unincorporated and unorganized territory of the US; administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, US Department of the Interior.

  • United States is now down to 18th on that list, so the link no longer matches the table – DavePhD Apr 17 '15 at 18:28
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    @DavePhD, Thanks, I have updated my answer. – Sam I Am Jul 7 '15 at 4:35
  • All of the countries above the US, not including Egypt, put together, are pretty small, IIANM - probably less than 5 million people between all of them put together, to make a guesstimate. So in a way, the answer should be "There's another one major country with more prevalent obesity, which is Egypt". – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Jul 16 '18 at 9:33
  • Is there info for "overweight" rather than "obese"? (BMI > 25) – thosphor Dec 13 '18 at 12:11
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No, the dubious privilege goes to the small island of Nauru where around 80% of the population are obese (as of 1994).

Obesity in Nauru is a major health concern for the nation. According to Forbes, Nauru is the world's fattest country with 94.5 % of the inhabitants at an unhealthy weight. The obesity rate is roughly 80%. Due to little arable land, much of local diet is processed food imported from elsewhere. Cultural and social ideologies contribute to this as well, obesity is seen as sign of wealth and power. The nation's children are also known to lead more sedentary lives.

Source

References

  • Interestingly, Nauru is not mentioned in the list linked to by Sam I Am, as it only lists 70 countries. Maybe it got grouped with Australia. – Andrew Grimm Mar 6 '12 at 7:43
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    @AndrewGrimm, I noticed that too. It wasn't grouped with Australia, as Nauru has an entry in the Factbook. My guess is the CIA didn't find a source they felt was reliable enough for some countries. Their FAQ states "The Factbook staff uses many different sources to publish what we judge are the most reliable and consistent data for any particular category. Space considerations preclude a listing of these various sources." – Sam I Am Mar 6 '12 at 15:21
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The USA is currently the fattest developed country in the world.

It is possible that when people talk about the US being the fattest country, they are referring only to developed countries. In which case the US currently comes in first place.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recently released a report that puts The USA as the most obese developed country, with Australia coming in 5th and Finland coming in 10th.

It's interesting to note that this fluctuates. At one point Australia was ahead of the US in obesity rankings.

Overall, Nauru is currently the country with the highest rate of obesity, as Sklivvz shows in his anwer.

This may be in part to "fattening rituals" which are a part of the Nauru culture.

Fattening rituals were also practised in Nauru where fattening was associated with beauty and fertility. Young women of the chiefly class were the central focus of deliberate fattening, particularly at the time of first menses, such practices continuing past child-bearing into middle age. Some young men also participated in these fattening rituals, as preparation for boxing competitions between districts.

-Source

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    I don't know, Saudi Arabia looks pretty developed to me, and has comparable levels of obesity according to the top answer, coming out slightly ahead of the US. – RomanSt Sep 22 '14 at 0:11
  • @romkyns that's why I added the currently qualifier in my answer. – Sonny Ordell Sep 22 '14 at 7:22

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