Global weight gain more damaging than rising numbers
Using World Health Organization data from 2005, the scientists worked out that the average global body weight was 62kg (137lb). But there were huge regional differences. In North America, the average was 80.7kg (178lb), while in Asia it was 57.7kg (127lb) .
While Asia accounts for 61% of the global population, it only accounts for 13% of the weight of the world due to obesity.
One of the authors of the paper, Prof Ian Roberts, explained the thinking behind the calculation.
"When people think about environmental sustainability, they immediately focus on population. Actually, when it comes down to it - it's not how many mouths there are to feed, it's how much flesh there is on the planet."
"If every country in the world had the same level of fatness that we see in the USA, in weight terms that would be like an extra billion people of world average body mass," he explained.
This is interesting, too, because it implies that changes in (sub)urban planning, such as more public transport and places of employment, stores, etc., in closer proximity to dwellings, would obviate the necessity of driving everywhere and thus being so sedentary. When I first moved to Europe 30 years ago, people in general were much thinner than Americans. At the time, very few families had second (or third) cars, and small stores within walking distance were the norm. People walked or cycled a lot. In the meantime, Europe has also adopted the "car culture" and American-style suburbs (and more fast food), and there's a visible correlation between increased car ownership and higher weight.
Prof Roberts says that the high number of Arab countries is due to the impact of the automobile.
"One of the most important determinants of average body mass index is motor vehicle gas consumption per capita. So, it is no surprise to see many of the Arab countries in the list - people eat but they move very little because they drive everywhere."