What Is The Fattest Country In The World?

Quick show of hands: How many people think that weighing too much — and we aren't talking about weight from exercise and muscle, we're talking about flab — is a good thing? Anybody? (Bueller?) Didn't think so.

The United States is growing — and not in a good way. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (our old friends the CDC), 1999 saw 30.5 percent of adult Americans hitting the obese mark, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, as U.S. News explains. (Determine your BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters. The CDC has an online calculator.) Alarm bells were sounded. Eat smarter, eat less, eat more nutritionally, and exercise more. Or at least some. And all of that public education worked.

Except when it didn't, which apparently is all the time. Statistics released in February 2020 show that the percentage of obesity actually went up in 2017-18, to 42.4 percent of the adult population. A BMI of 40 and more is considered not simply obese, but severely so, and now 9.2 percent of the adult American population scores that questionable number.

The struggle is real

There is some cold comfort out there: We aren't the only ones. As The New England Journal of Medicine reported in 2015, globally, 107.7 million children qualified as obese, as did 603.7 million adults. And, believe it or not, the most troubling rates don't originate with the United States, home of The Whopper, in more ways than one.

According to 2016 data from the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook, the nations with the greatest rates of adult obesity are found in the South Pacific. Topping the list is Nauru, with an adult obesity rate of 61 percent. Cook Islands have 55.9 percent; Palau, 55.3; Marshall Islands, 52.9. Samoa is eighth on the list, at 47.3 percent. Kuwait is ranked 11, followed by the United States (which in turn is followed by Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar). So we aren't first. Cold comfort — and no, not the cold comfort you get from a milkshake.