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News In Brief

WHO: United States tops list of nations in obesity

Matt Berger Dec 13, 2010

Earlier this month on the Marketplace Morning Report, our regular segement with Stephan Richter, publisher and editor-in-chief of, quizzed listeners to identify the country with the portliest population.

The answer, as you may have guessed, is the United States, according to data from the World Health Organization. However, we received a ton of mail from listeners who questioned the data and wanted more information on the source. Stephan Richter responds:

The data upon which the obesity quiz is based are from the World Health Organization. The precise figures for each country can be accessed from the WHO’s Global Infobase () by clicking on the “NCD indicators” tab on the top of the page, selecting “BMI/overweight/obesity prevalence” under the “Select an indicator” heading, selecting the particular country under the “Select a country” heading, selecting “Global Infobase estimated” under the “Select a year” heading, and by clicking “View data” under the “Step 3” heading.

1 United States: 46.3

2 Argentina: 37.6

3 Mexico: 35.5

4 Saudi Arabia: 29.7

5 Australia: 28.8

6 Canada: 25.6

7 United Kingdom: 25

8 Germany: 22.5

9 South Africa: 22.2

10 Turkey: 21.6

The particular indicator we chose is “2010 BMI ≥ 30 kg/m² Both sexes Ages 15-100 (Global Infobase estimated)” These are the same figures the Financial Times used in a chart in an article on obesity published on September 9, 2010. While the figure the WHO provides for the United States is higher than the figure commonly reported in the U.S. media, we chose this particular measurement because the data for each country have been standardized by the WHO, thereby making international comparisons more accurate.

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