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Most of the world's obese people live in developing countries

Published: Friday, June 6 2014 4:15 p.m. MDT

In this July 24, 2008 file photo, obese patients wash their plates after lunch at the Aimin Fat Reduction Hospital in Tianjin, China. A third of obese people live in developing countries like China, studies say.

Ng Han Guan, Associated Press

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The obesity epidemic is becoming increasingly global, and even in developing countries where children are malnourished, obesity is on the rise.

A new study published Thursday by The Lancet, found that more people in developing countries are obese, increasing from about 8 percent in 1980 to 13 percent in 2013 in children and adolescents.

One-third of the world is overweight or obese, and "62 percent of these individuals live in developing countries," The Atlantic's Uri Friedman writes.

"Obesity isn't just spreading to the developing world; it's also concentrating in certain places. According to the Lancet study, more than half of the world's 671 million obese people live in just 10 countries: the United States, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan and Indonesia. The U.S. accounts for 13 percent of the world's obese population, and China and India a combined 15 percent," Friedman reported.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the study defined overweight as having a body mass index between 25 and 30, and obese was defined as those with a BMI higher than 30.

"Because of the established health risks and substantial increases in prevalence, obesity has become a major global health challenge. Not only is obesity increasing, but no national success stories have been reported in the past 33 years," the report's authors said.

Foreign Policy reported, "According to the WHO, many low- and middle-income countries are, ironically, facing the twin problems of obesity and undernutrition."

Many of the overweight children who live in the developing world "are more prone to obesity because they were undernourished in the womb and as infants," writes Foreign Policy's John Norris.

In his article examining the rise in obesity levels around the world, Norris suggests the United States packaged food industry is largely to blame.

"A complex web of American agricultural, trade, marketing, and scientific practices together are helping drive a 'globesity' epidemic. Many of these policies were designed to give U.S. firms a leg up in international markets, but the domestic economic benefits of this culinary oligarchy are increasingly being outweighed — literally and figuratively — by the toll on international health, particularly among the poor. The American taxpayer is directly underwriting a food-production system in which nutrition has become a distant afterthought," Norris writes.

amcdonald@deseretnews

@amymcdonald89

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