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10 Overweight Countries That Make Americans Look Thin

Quick: List the countries you think have the highest obesity rates. Were the Pacific islands among them? Although the US ranks as the most overweight country in the world of countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, many countries have heavier citizens than Americans.

The Data

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Our World in Data recently published an interactive map based on NCD Risk Factor Collaboration’s data on body mass index (BMI) and overweight trends between 1975 and 2016 across 195 countries. The results that follow are a punch to the gut.

1: Nauru

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Nearly 89% of Nauru citizens are overweight, which the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration defined as having a BMI of 25 or higher. Clocking in at just over eight square miles, Nauru is a Micronesia island northeast of Australia. It has a population of around 12,511.

2: Palau

Islands in Palau.
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Palau isn’t far behind Nauru, with 85.1% of its population being overweight. Palau’s 18,000+ residents live on just a handful of the archipelago’s more than 300 islands.

3: Cook Islands

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The Cook Islands have an overweight rate of just 0.4% less than Palau. Its 17,000+ residents live across 15 spread-out islands, with mountainous Rarotonga being the largest and most populated.

4: Marshall Islands

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The Marshall Islands have an overweight rate of 83.5%. This country has a significantly larger population of more than 42,000 residents. Scenic volcanic islands and excellent diving make the Marshall Islands a popular tourist destination.

5: Tuvalu

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Tuvalu’s overweight rate is just under 82%. Nine islands compose this British Commonwealth, with its 11,000+ residents spread out among them. Like the Marshall Islands, it’s home to World War II sites.

6: Niue

Niue is the last country on this list in the 80 percent range; it has a flat 80% obesity rate. This limestone island in the South Pacific has a population of only 1,620. Its aquatic species far outnumber the human population, which includes migrating whales between July and September.

7: Kiribati

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Kiribati’s obesity rate is “only” 78.7%. Over 128,000 people live in this island country, which is composed of 32 atolls. The isolated coral island of Banaba is also part of Kiribati.

8: Tonga

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Most of the 170+ islands in Tonga are uninhabited. But if you visit the main island Tongatapu, an obesity rate of 78.5% will greet you. This Polynesian kingdom has a population of over 100,000.

9: Samoa

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Samoa is a series of small islands sitting between Hawaii and New Zealand. Of its 210,000+ population, 77.6% of its citizens are overweight.

10: Micronesia

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Micronesia is a country with over 600 islands and has the slimmest population on this list, relatively speaking, of course. 75.9% of its population is overweight.

The Pacific’s Obesity Issue

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All of these top ten most overweight countries in the world are in the Pacific islands. Research at the University of Oxford suggests the reason could be tied to a diet change under colonial rule. Colonizers sought to teach Pacific islanders “proper” food habits, forcing them to lose many of their traditional agriculture and cuisines.

America’s Ranking

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The United States ranks as the 15th most overweight country in the world in NCD Risk Factor Collaboration’s data. But if you were to include only the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries on this list, the U.S. would be the most overweight country.

Britain’s Ranking

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The United Kingdom came in 15 spots lower than the United States, ranking as the 30th most overweight country. All those fish and chips can still do a number on your waistline.

The Gut-Wrenching Statistic

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The NCD Risk Factor Collaboration discovered a troubling statistic. Of the 195 countries the study included, not a single nation showed a decrease in rates of overweight populations between 1975 and 2016.

Drumroll for the Skinniest Country…

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Vietnam ranked as the thinnest country in the world, with just 18.3% of its population being overweight. Poverty plays a role in this number. However, the Vietnamese diet is also quite healthy, as it’s rich in rice, vegetables, and fish. Do you know what the other slimmest countries are?

Living Skinny: The 10 Thinnest Countries in the World

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Are you on a mission to no longer contribute to the statistics on this list? Discover where you can vacation in style without packing on the pounds.

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