HealthExpress News Wednesday May 14, 2014

Which Country Will Win The Obesity World Cup?

To tie in with the 2014 World Cup, HealthExpress looked at obesity statistics for all the countries taking part in the competition. This data, taken from official sources including the World Health Organisation, provides compelling reading.

It seems almost daily there is a breaking news story about the rising 'obesity crisis' in the UK. Recent statistics suggest that in England alone around a quarter of adults are now classed as obese, with two thirds regarded as overweight.

Such high percentages are a relatively recent phenomenon. Data from Public Health England shows the progression of obesity over time. In 1993, only 15% of adults in England were classed as obese, compared with 25% in 2012.

Since 2001, numbers have increase more slowly than in the preceding years, however there is still an upwards trend. A recent study by the UK Heart Forum predicts that by 2030, 75% of British men will be overweight or obese, and 65% of women.

A Global Health Crisis?

This picture is replicated across several continents, from Europe to South America. The trend is extremely worrying, and indicates that a global health crisis may be looming for a large proportion of the population. Obesity is linked to a wide variety of health problems, and those who are obese have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression and several types of cancer.

Unfortunately, with those who have a healthy BMI becoming a minority, being overweight or even obese will be increasingly normalised in many countries across the world. In fact England is by no means the worse offender, despite such high levels of obesity.

Dr Hilary Jones, Independent Medical Advisor to HealthExpress, says:

"Obesity is one of the greatest threats to health in the world today, as recognised by the World Health Organisation. However it is an entirely preventable cause of chronic disease and premature death. Obesity is to the 21st century what tobacco was to the 20th century, causing all kinds of physical, emotional and social problems. With one half of the UK population set to become obese by the year 2050, it is a problem that requires urgent attention".

Obesity World Cup

In these graphs we have laid out the ten most obese countries in the World Cup, along with the least obese.

England, at 24.9%, was ranked joint 6th most obese with Russia, while Mexico has the dubious honour of coming top with 32.8% obesity.

The graph below shows the ten least obese countries. South Korea are the healthiest country taking part in the World Cup, with only 2.1% of their population being classed as obese.

We have also broken the statistics down by gender. The chart below illustrates the difference in male and female obesity rates for the top ten countries that have the greatest disparity between the two numbers. In Iran, for example, 29.5% of women are classed as obese, but only 13.6% of men.

Progression To The Final

As the full interactive guide illustrates, in an Obesity World Cup England would achieve a place in the quarter finals. 2014 hosts Brazil finish third in their group, due to a relatively low obesity percentage. Mexico edge Argentina to the title in the final match.

Take a look at the interactive guide below for more statistics on each country and group.

Infographic created by HealthExpress

What Can We Do?

In simple terms, the main cause of the obesity crisis is that we are eating too many calories and not burning enough off. Modern lifestyles mean we are often too busy, or think we are, to eat proper meals. Instead we fill up on unhealthy snacks and takeaways. The same goes for exercise, with most of us finding it difficult to fit the recommended amount of activity into our day.

Dr Hilary's advice is that we need to work together to tackle this problem in a variety of ways, for example by:

"monitoring the weight of people throughout their childhood so that we can take early measures if we see that their weight is increasing too fast. We need to make the right choices about the food that we eat and get into the habit of enjoying aerobic type activity four times per week. We need to curtail our over-reliance on the car and on escalators. Instead of playing electronic games or watching TV, we should be getting out in the open air and using our bodies as they were designed to be used. Many people have never known what it is like to be truly fit and to appreciate how good it feels".

Visit the Obesity World Cup interactive guide to see the full version. You can also get more information about weight management on our weight loss information page.

For a free, no obligation consultation with one of our partner doctors, visit

Written by Nicola Beckett.

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