Global Economy
Obesity impacting health budgets in OECD countries; US adult obesity rates more than doubled to 34% since 1980
By Finfacts Team
Nov 24, 2011 - 7:41 AM

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President William Howard Taft (l) pictured prior to the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson, March 04, 1913. Taft was the last American president to weigh more than 300lbs. He weighed 340 pounds or 154 kg in 1913. Photo: Library of Congress

Rising obesity levels in OECD countries are hitting strapped public health budgets and on this Thanksgiving Day, the inconvenient truth is that America has the worst problem among the world's developed countries with adult obesity rates doubling to 34% of the adult population since 1980, while another 34% of US adults over 20 are overweight.

The OECD says obesity is a key risk factor for many chronic conditions, with severely obese people dying up to 10 years earlier than those of normal weight. A report shows that obesity rates have doubled or even tripled in many countries since 1980. In more than half of OECD countries, 50% or more of the population is now overweight, if not obese. The obesity rate in the adult population is highest in the United States, rising from 15% in 1980 to 34% in 2008, and lowest in Japan and Korea, at 4%. 

In his 1937 book, The Road to Wigan Pier, on the grim conditions of the English working classes, George Orwell wrote:

“The basis of their diet is white bread and margarine, corned beef, sugared tea and potato - - an appalling diet. Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread?…Yes it would, but the point is, no human being would ever do such a thing.…A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man does not…When you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want to eat something a little bit tasty.”

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