The world has seen an alarming rise in obesity rates over the past decade. People all over the globe are becoming less active and have access to high-calorie, high-fat foods. According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that over 650 million adults and 379 million children and adolescents are obese worldwide. The severity of this case is different from one country to another.
Obesity is determined by body mass index (BMI), which is based on weight and height. A BMI over 30 is considered obese, and a BMI over 60 is called super-super obese. This major health concern is linked to numerous diseases, including diabetes, coronary heart disease, certain types of cancer, and even mortality.
To help tackle this global crisis, we have compiled a comprehensive list of the top 20 obese countries. This list considers factors such as population size, lifestyle habits, and access to healthcare. We’ll also provide an overview of each country’s current obesity rate, so you can better understand what’s going on. With this list, you’ll see which countries are leading the way in fighting obesity and which are still lagging.
|Rank||Countries||% Adult Population||% Obese|
Continued List of Top Obese Countries
|Rank||Countries||% Adult Population||% Obese|
|20||United Arab Emirates||83%||31%|
20. United Arab Emirates
Obesity Rate: 31%
With a growing population of nearly 9.91 million, the United Arab Emirates is ranked twenty among the most obese countries worldwide. The UAE is a wealthy nation with its largest city, Dubai, having a high average income of 308k AED($83k) per year.
Main Causes of Obesity in the United Arab Emirates
All kinds of foods, especially fattening and high-calorie options, make up a significant portion of restaurants and dining throughout the country. An unhealthy diet with little physical activity contributes to the United Arab Emirates’ overweight population.
- Unhealthy diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Unequal cultural norms that lead women to over-eating
- High median income
Obesity Rate: 32%
Number nineteen on the list, Lebanon has 32% of the population classified as overweight. As of 2022, roughly 6.76 million people live in this Middle East country. Lebanon has a Western-style diet, high red meat and fast food consumption, and a culture of eating large meals at social gatherings.
Main Causes of Obesity in Lebanon
- Over 50% of the population ingests fast food on a daily basis
- Almost 30% of the population over the age of 20 are overweight
- Between 1990 and 2014, the excess weight levels in young adults grew by 13%
- Increase in fast-food restaurants
- More hours playing video games and watching TV
Obesity Rate: 32%
Egypt has the highest population of overweight individuals in both the Middle East and North Africa. Over the past decade, the level of obesity in Egypt has skyrocketed to 32%. With over 100 million heavy-set people, Egypt’s population is increasing in size and weight.
Main Causes of Obesity in Egypt
A major source of weight gain in Egypt is the overconsumption of processed and high-calorie meals. This is often due to a lack of access to nutritious alternatives. Another contributing factor is inactivity, an increasing shift toward sedentary lifestyles. People are spending more time in front of screens, leading to a decrease in physical activity.
- Almost 20% of the estimated deaths in 2020 were induced by obesity
- Difficult to find places to exercise
- Meals are high in Sugar and Carbohydrates
- Fast food in Egypt is seen as a delicacy
Obesity Rate: 32%
Considered the heaviest country per capita in Europe, Turkey has seen a sharp rise in obesity rates over the past few decades, from 22.3% among adults to over 32%. This alarming number has serious implications for the health of the Turkish population, especially in the younger generations.
Leading Causes of Obesity in Turkey
Various factors are contributing to the high levels of obesity in Turkey, including
- The abundance of fast-food chains
- An overall languid lifestyle
Obesity Rate: 32%
Libya has recently seen a rapid increase in obesity levels, with almost twice as many adults now being overweight than in the 1980s. The high rate of obesity in Libya may be partly due to people being encouraged to stay indoors due to dangerous political conditions in the country.
Main Causes of Obesity in Libya
The Libyan diet has shifted to fast food, and processed snacks are becoming increasingly common. This is coupled with a lack of access to fresh produce and limited access to physical activity due to widespread poverty. The rise in the use of technology and stagnant lifestyles have also contributed to the growing body mass ratio.
- Residents stay home and eat unhealthy, ready-made meals
- The absence of physical activities due to the unsafe environment
Obesity Rate: 35%
Qatar is one of the most developed countries in the Middle East, yet it has an incredibly high rate of obesity. Ranked at number fifteen, Qatar has a 35% obesity prevalence.
Qatar surpassed China to claim the title of the richest country in the world in 2011. In addition, it surpassed all other nations as the largest exporter of natural gas, earning the distinction of having the fastest-growing economy worldwide. Qatar hosted the 2022 FIFA World Cup, an international football tournament. Qataris have nannies, cooks, and maids, making their living laid back.
Main Causes of Obesity in Qatar
There are a number of factors contributing to obesity in Qatar, such as
- The country’s rapid economic growth
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Lack of a balanced diet
- Depression and anxiety often lead to binge eating
14. Saudi Arabia
Obesity Rate: 35%
Over the last few decades, the prevalence of obesity in Saudi Arabia has dramatically risen due to the population’s increasing westernization. The current overweight population in Saudi Arabia is estimated to be around 35%, a significant increase from years past.
Main Causes of Obesity in Saudi Arabia
The obesity prevalence increase can be attributed to several factors, including
- Diet intake based on convenience foods
- Adopting inactive lifestyles
- Saudi Arabia’s growing wealth and access to unhealthy ingredients
Obesity Rate: 35%
Jordan has a high prevalence of obesity, ranking 13th in the world in terms of the percentage of the population that is morbidly obese (over 35%). This is significantly greater than the global average of 28% and has become a major public health concern in the country.
Main Causes of Obesity in Jordan
- Fast food, ready-made meals, and sugary drinks are all widely available
- Opportunities for exercise and physical activity are limited
- There is a cultural stigma against physical activity, leading to even fewer people engaging in regular exercise
- There are also socioeconomic factors at play, as those in lower-income brackets are more likely to be obese due to their limited access to healthy meal options
12. United States
Obesity Rate: 36%
The ratio of overweight individuals in the United States has reached an all-time high, with obesity now affecting more than 36% of adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average American now weighs 26 pounds heavier than they were in the 1950s. The economic burden of obesity is estimated at $172 billion per year in direct and indirect healthcare costs.
Leading Causes of Obesity in the United States
- Escalated consumption of mass-produced foods
- Exercising less and eating more calories
- Socioeconomic status
- Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup
It’s also important to focus on reducing the disparities among different racial and ethnic groups and to recognize that obesity prevention and treatment require a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach.
Obesity Rate: 37%
Over the last ten years, Kuwait’s rich lifestyle fueled by oil profits has been held responsible for the country’s rapidly growing obese population. Over the last ten years, drive-thru restaurants have become unprecedentedly popular. The tiny gulf state is also the place where most stomach stapling procedures are performed.
Main Causes of Obesity in Kuwait
- Kuwaitis now intake more mass-produced meals than ever before
- Lack of physical activity
10. The Federated States of Micronesia
Obesity Rate: 45%
The Federated States of Micronesia is a collective of over 600 islands (archipelago) and comprises four island states in the western Pacific ocean. Unfortunately, the islands are facing an unprecedented obesity crisis despite efforts from the government.
Main Causes of Obesity in the Federated States of Micronesia
The high obesity prevalence in Micronesia is fueled by
- Decreased agricultural activity
- An increase in unhealthy food imports
Obesity Rate: 46%
Kiribati is a tiny island with a population of about 100,000 people. Kiribatians are facing a major health crisis due to the rising prevalence of obesity. Studies have shown that the leading cause of weight gain in Kiribati is increased caloric intake combined with relaxed island living.
Leading Causes of Obesity in Kiribati
With more people eating energy-dense, large-scale manufactured groceries and less engaging in physical activity, it’s not surprising that the level of obese individuals is increasing. Little access to affordable and nutritious meal choices also contributes to the problem.
Many of Kiribati’s inhabitants live in poverty and cannot afford the fresh, healthy nourishment they need. This means they are more likely to turn to cheaper and more readily available menu options.
- High intake of convenience meals
- Lack of access to healthy nutrition due to poverty
- Gene variant that affects size.
Obesity Rate: 47%
Located amid the gorgeous seas of the south pacific, Samoa is an incorporated U.S. territory. The obesity epidemic in Samoa is a serious problem, with 47% of the adult population now overweight. This is a startling statistic, especially considering that the country only has over 200,000 people.
Leading Causes of Obesity in Samoa
Weight gain in Samoa is strongly correlated to the following factors;
- A high-fat, high-sugar diet
- Lack of health education
- Lack of physical activity due to a sedentary lifestyle
Obesity Rate: 48%
Tonga is a monarchical nation on the Polynesian archipelago in the south pacific. Tongans are facing an obesity epidemic primarily forced being changing dietary habits. Traditional, healthy foods are being replaced with imported products high in salt, fat, and sugar. This shift in nutritional habits has led to an increase in overweight and obese individuals.
Leading Causes of Obesity in Tonga
- Imported unhealthy meals to the Pacific Islands are the greatest proponent of increased body mass.
Obesity Rate: 50%
Niue is a small island nation 1500 miles from New Zealand and a popular tourist destination. With just over 2,000 people, Niue has a shocking 50% of its population considered obese or overweight. The weight problem is largely due to the consumption of processed food.
Main Causes of Obesity in Niue
Unfortunately, processed food is often cheaper and more readily available than healthier options.
- Low economic government
Obesity Rate: 51%
In the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, the transition to a diet of heavily processed, low-cost grub has devastated the population’s health. This dietary shift has led to a surge in corpulence, with the most recent figures showing that over half of the population is overweight.
Main Causes of Obesity in Tuvalu
Most of the population consumes a diet high in processed food, sugar, and saturated fat, which has decreased overall health. The main contributing factors to the prevalence of obesity are:
- Unhealthy diet
- Lack of Physical activity
- Limited access to healthy options
4. Marshall Islands
Obesity Rate: 52%
The Marshall Islands have one of the highest rates of obesity in the world. The percentage of overweight adults aged 25 to 64 is 52%. This is significantly higher than the global average of 28.2%. The level of childhood obesity is also high, with a staggering 47.2% of children aged 5-19 suffering from obesity.
Leading Causes of Obesity in the Marshall Islands
The main cause of weight gain in the Marshall Islands is high-calorie snacks. They are widely available in convenience stores and are a cheaper alternative to wholesome meals.
- Excessive consumption of processed foods
- No access to physical activity (No gyms or recreational facilities)
Obesity Rate: 55%
Obesity is a significant issue in Palau, with more than half of the population experiencing an obesity epidemic. This is largely due to the country’s limited availability of wholesome meal options. The fact that Palau is made up of 500 islands makes it difficult to distribute healthy food to all areas, causing 20,000 citizens to have limited access to nutritious options.
Processed food has a longer shelf life, making importing and exporting easier. It is also generally cheaper to produce than other types of food because it is made in large quantities using mass-production methods. This makes it an attractive option for many consumers. However, processed food is often high in added sugars, fructose corn syrup, salt, and unhealthy fats, which can contribute to negative health outcomes such as obesity and chronic diseases.
Main Causes of Obesity in Palau
Diet is a major contributing factor to weight gain in Palau. Instead of using energy to hunt, fish, and gather, Palauans have traded tradition for convenience. Conserving energy and poor nourishment result in less physical activity on the remote Pacific island.
- Diet high in carbohydrates and starches, with few fresh fruits and vegetables
- Lacks essential nutrients and vitamins
- Low physical activity
2. Cook Islands
Obesity Rate: 55%
The Cook Islands is a small nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. Despite its small size, it has one of the highest excess weight ratios in the world. More than half of the Cook Islands population have a body mass index of 30+. Cook Islanders are dying prematurely due to a poor diet.
Leading Causes of Obesity in the Cook Islands
- Over 80% of the island’s nutrition is imported
- Processed items are cheaper with longer shelf-life
- One resident shared that today kids would rather choose a bag of chips instead of traditional fresh fish or taro
Obesity Rate: 61%
Leading number one as the fattest country in the world is Nauru. A small island nation situated in the Pacific Ocean close to Papua New Guinea, with approximately 10,000 inhabitants. An overwhelming majority of the citizens of Nauru are classified as obese or overweight. Nauru’s entire residents are facing increased cases of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and renal disease.
Main Causes of Obesity in Nauru
A significant portion of their diets includes white rice, processed instant noodles, foreign-imported junk food, and sodas with almost no fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Unhealthy diet
- Lack of access to fresh food
Contributing Factors of Worldwide Obesity
The main causes of obesity are high fructose corn syrup, glyphosate, seed oils, soy, and vitamin A deficiency. These ingredients can be found in 90% of an average person’s diet.
Covid-19 has dramatically impacted the global weight issue, with the number of obese people increasing significantly in the past year. This is due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic and lockdowns, which have led to people becoming more sedentary and spending more time indoors. With fewer outdoor activities and exercise opportunities, people are more likely to consume unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks. This, in turn, causes people to gain weight and become overweight or even obese.
Furthermore, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a financial strain on many households, leading to people relying on cheaper, processed foods that are often high in fat, salt, and sugar. This leads to a further increase in obesity levels, which can escalate the number of severe health problems.
Countries Still Lagging Behind
Many nations currently plagued with major overweight cases are not directly addressing the issue. These governments have poor public health policies, and their citizens lack access to proper healthcare. This makes it difficult for them to prevent and treat obesity once it escalates in their population. The Lancet by the Global Burden of Disease studied countries with the highest rate of obesity by population.
Top 10 countries with the highest number of fat people
|Rank||Countries||Number of Obese Adults||% of Population|
|1||United States||78 million people||33%|
|2||China||46 million people||4.4%|
|3||India||30 million people||3.8%|
|4||Russia||28 million people||24.1%|
|5||Brazil||22 million people||16.2%|
|6||Mexico||20 million people||26.9%|
|7||Egypt||18 million people||35.9%|
|8||Germany||16 million people||24.3%|
|9||Pakistan||14 million people||13.6%|
|10||United Arab Emirates||11 million people||6.8%|
Developed countries may have better access to healthcare and other resources, but they are still at risk of this global health epidemic. It is predicted that the prevalence of obesity in developed countries will continue to rise in the next decade. The statistics in children point to an even graver future.
As the world population increases, so does the predominance of obesity. Obesity is becoming more prevalent globally, with rapid growth in the Bahamas (30%), New Zealand (31%), Iraq (30%), Canada (28%), Australia (28%), and the United Kingdom (26%). These countries, and many others, are experiencing the dangerous health effects of adiposity, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Countries Leading the Way in Tackling Obesity
In many cases, it’s not just important to know which countries have obesity problems but also the ones dealing with it the most efficiently and productively. Solving obesity is more than just eating a healthy diet and exercising; it’s also about improving public health policies and better access to healthcare.
The slimmest nations of the globe, according to OECD:
- Madagascar (BMI of 21.1)
- Eritrea (BMI of 21.1)
- Ethiopia (BMI of 21.2)
- Timor-Leste (BMI of 21.3)
- Burundi (BMI of 21.6)
- Japan (BMI of 21.8)
- China (BMI of 21.9)
- India (BMI of 21.9)
- Bangladesh (BMI of 22.0)
- Burkina Faso (BMI of 22.1)
The people in these countries are used to walking or biking regularly to school or work and routinely engaging in sports or exercise activities. There is also a strong emphasis on education about nutrition. This includes teaching children the importance of eating wholesome foods and the dangers of unhealthy diets. These factors have helped these countries effectively tackle obesity and promote a healthier lifestyle.
Countries in Scandinavia have effective measures in place to combat their local obesity incidents. Healthy dietary habits help residents get the essential nutrients without worrying about consuming too much fat or sugar. Secondly, regular physical activity is a staple in regions like Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
To reverse the obesity epidemic, it’s important to understand its causes. Once we get a better understanding of these factors, we can start to implement solutions. And most importantly, we can work together to encourage people to get more active, eat healthier, and lead a more balanced way of living.
Solutions to Obesity
One possible solution for treating obesity is pharmacotherapy, which involves using medications to reduce appetite and control cravings. However, individuals must keep taking the meds indefinitely and deal with their side effects. Diet and exercise are typically other methods for addressing obesity issues. Unfortunately, most diets, exercise plans, and medications have been found to be ineffective ways to lose weight. These nonsurgical methods only account for a modest 5-10% excess body weight loss.
Bariatric surgery, also known as weight loss surgery, is considered the most effective resolution for obesity. There are several types of bariatric surgery, including laparoscopic and endoscopic procedures. Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure involving making small incisions in the abdomen to reduce the size of the stomach and change how the intestines function. On the other hand, endoscopic techniques are scarless procedures in which a small tube is inserted through the mouth to remove excess fat from the digestive tract. Both types of bariatric surgery have been shown to help individuals lose weight and improve their overall health outcomes.
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Making lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity, can help prevent or reduce obesity. Education and support can also be helpful in helping individuals make changes to their habits. The most effective approach to treating obesity typically involves a combination of behavior modification, dietary changes, physical activity, and pharmacotherapy or bariatric surgery as needed.
* Obesity prevalence rates were complied with using The World Factbook by the Central Intelligence Agency.