18th Jun 2012 9:35am | By Rebecca Kent
Obesity is such an issue now that even global resources could be buckling under the weight.
The collective surplus fat that individuals are carrying on them could have the same impact as an extra billion people as far as natural resources go, researchers have found.
They found north America responsible for more than a third of world’s obesity, even though it only accounts for six per cent of the population
Asia, on the other hand, accounts for 61 per cent of the world’s population, but only 13 per cent of the weight of the world due to obesity.
The research was conducted at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to prompt new thinking about issues of consumption, weight and population growth.
Scientists calculated the weight of the global population at 287 million tonnes, estimating that 15 million tonnes of this mass is due to people being overweight, and 2.5 million tonnes due to obesity.
The figures were based on 2005 data from the World Health Organisation, with the average global body weight at 62kg. However, it took into account regional differences. In north America, the average was 80.7kg and is Asia it was 57.7kg.
Existing perceptions on obesity are “divisive”, according to the report.
One of the researchers, Professor Ian Roberts, said: “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, it's how much flesh there is on the planet.
"One of the problems with definitions of obesity is that it fosters a 'them and us' ideal. Actually, we're all getting fatter."
It all has dramatic implications on the planet, Roberts says.
“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," he explained.
He added it was a falsehood to link a skinny population with poverty.
"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."
There were some surprises in the weight index, including countries like Kuwait, Croatia, Qatar and Egypt which are all in the top 10 of heavy populations. The scientists hypothosised this was due to the widespread use of cars.
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