Why are people in poorer countries obese?

First of all, the good news: In the past 40 years, the number of people underweight has decreased significantly worldwide. This is mainly due to the fact that far fewer people in poor countries are hungry today than in the past. In China in particular, the nutritional situation of the population has improved significantly since the end of Mao Zedong's rule. Hunger and malnutrition remain a major problem in Africa and India.

At the same time, a new health risk has spread in the rich countries of the world: people there eat too much. Obesity has increased significantly, as have secondary illnesses such as diabetes. Taken together, the two developments mean that there have been more obese than underweight people in the world for about five years. The World Health Organization classifies someone as underweight if their body mass index (BMI) is less than 18.5. Obesity begins with a BMI of 30. The body mass index is calculated from the body weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters.

If you look at where people have increased the most since 1975, two regions of the world top the list: the island states in the South Pacific and the Arab countries. The US is also at the forefront. In Germany and most of Western Europe, however, the proportion of obese people rose only moderately.

Nowhere are there so many obese people as in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. Almost every second man there is much too fat. In Burundi and East Timor, on the other hand, less than one percent of the population is obese.

The example of Germany shows that the total population has increased only slightly on average. So most people still have a healthy normal weight. However, the mean alone does not tell the whole story. There is a small but growing minority who are much too heavy by the standards of the WHO: 20 percent of women and 22 percent of men in Germany are considered obese. Obesity is considered a major health risk and often leads to secondary diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems. However, according to some recent research, being slightly overweight could even be good for your health.

Obesity is a question of age. In Germany, the proportion of people who are seriously overweight increases significantly with age. Among those over 70, almost a third of men and more than 40 percent of women are obese.

In addition, the risk of being obese is related to social status. According to a study by the Robert Koch Institute, people with a low social status are much more likely to be too heavy. The classification was based on level of education, professional position and household income.

How fat makes life difficult for us

Fat is a basic component of our daily diet. Too much fat is unhealthy, but too little is. A focus on fast food, bacon rolls and avocados. You can find all texts here.