Obesity is defined as the abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat which negatively affects overall health.
Worldwide obesity has almost tripled since 1975; as of 2017, the World Health Organisation declared more than 603 million adults and 107 million children to be obese globally - that is, roughly five percent of all children and 12 percent of adults on earth.
Despite obesity being a preventable condition, except in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia being overweight is the cause of more deaths worldwide than being underweight.
Weight is calculated via the Body Mass Index (BMI), which assesses a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height.
An imbalanced or raised BMI can trigger a vast range of serious health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and other degenerative bone diseases, many cancers and respiratory difficulties.
Although obesity was previously regarded as a social health issue in high income countries where people eat rich, calorific diets, the condition is swiftly on the increase in low-middle income nations particularly in urban areas.
Surprisingly, the fattest countries are not those you might expect - and there’s one particular region where obesity is increasing at a jaw-dropping four times the global average: the South Pacific.
The United States ranks 18th on the list, with the UK faring significantly better at 43rd. The least overweight country in Europe is Switzerland, who placed 111th, narrowly beating France (108th), Denmark (107th) and Sweden (104th).
WHO takes a look at a list of the top 10 most overweight countries in the world.
WHO takes a look at a list of the top 10 most overweight countries in the world.
Taking the bemusing title of 10th fattest country in the world, Kuwait is the only nation in the top 10 outside the South Pacific region.
42.8 percent of the population are considered to be obese, while a staggering 70 percent fall into the overweight classification.
Kuwait is the most overweight country in the Middle East, with obesity projected to rise to 60 percent by 2020.
According to the Kuwait Times, the tiny Gulf state also boasts worryingly high rates of diabetes, as well as the highest rate of stomach stapling surgeries in the world with an average of 5,000 operations performed annually for a small population of just 4 million.
The same report claimed Kuwait’s booming fast food industry is to blame for the epidemic, while other sources cite a lack of amenities and activities in the oil rich nation as the reason for chronic overeating.
9. Marshall Islands
A national survey indicated 62.5 percent of the total Marshall Islands population were considered overweight.
Vitamin A deficiency is a widespread public health issue in the Marshall Islands, as well as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension.
The dramatically worsening weight problem across the South Pacific has been attributed mainly to the increase of imported foods, according to the World Health Organisation.
However some health officials claim the reason for such serious weight problems across the Pacific Rim is due to a failure to adjust the calculation for Body Mass Index among Polynesian individuals, who typically have larger bone and muscle mass than their Caucasian counterparts.
Nutrition is a significant health risk factor in the small island grouping of Kiribati, which has a population of less than 100,000.
Despite a rich supply of fish and locally harvested food, I-Kiribati (as native people from the area are called) have steadily increased their consumption of cheap, low quality imported food high in salt, sugar and saturated fat in recent decades.
Goals 4 Good estimate 38 percent of males and 54 percent of females aged 20 and over are classified as obese. A further 30 percent of the population live with type 2 diabetes.
Cardiovascular disease accounted for 20 percent of all deaths in Kiribati in the 2000s, while diabetes killed a further 7 percent of the population. The World Health Organisation cited overweight and obesity as the leading cause of these chronic diseases.
Kiribati also struggles with access to clean water and sanitation, with only half to two thirds of the population have a quality supply of drinking water.
Located in the Western Pacific Ocean south of Japan lies a group of 340 islands known collectively as Palau, home to around 20,000 citizens.
The region is blessed with rich biodiversity, stunning landscapes and pristine beaches, but Palau is also plagued with significant health challenges, the worst of which is chronic obesity.
Roughly 78.4 percent of Palauns are classified as overweight, 47.6 percent are obese, while diabetes and liver disease are also rampant among the ailing population.
Heart disease and a wide range of cancers are on the increase in Palau, attributed to dietary and environmental triggers.
43.4 percent of Samoans were found to be obese in a CNN survey, while 9 out of 10 adults are deemed to be overweight.
Poor diet and reduced levels of physical activity have become major public health concerns in Samoa, where residents have a genetic predisposition to developing type 2 diabetes.
Stroke and heart disease is also increasing across the country, an epidemic which has been linked to an increase in cheap, nutritionally lacking Western food imports.
The Guardian reports Samoans view locally sourced, fresh ingredients as somehow socially inferior, leading to a preference for calorific, sugary drinks and tinned, processed goods.
According to public health statistics, 43.4 percent of the Tongan population are obese.
Life expectancy has fallen to 64 years in Tonga, down from a historic average of mid-70s.
Up to 40 percent of Tonga’s population live with type 2 diabetes, and the late Tongan king Taufa'ahau Tupou IV holds the world record for being the heaviest monarch to ever live weighing in at 200 kilograms.
One of the primary culprits behind Tonga’s disturbing weight problem is the importation of cheap, fatty cuts of meat called mutton flaps from New Zealand (which are used in fast food and doner kebabs across Europe).
The tiny island nation also imports large quantities of low quality turkey tails from the US, which the BBC have reported are regarded by Tongans as socially superior to domestically farmed fish and meat.
By population, the South Pacific island of Tokelau is the world’s second smallest nation with a tiny population of 11,000 in 2011.
Non-self governed by New Zealand, the coral atoll is just 12.7 kilometres in size but the minute territory is plagued with economic and social health problems.
Low levels of physical activity and poor diet has resulted in obesity levels of over 70 percent among Tokelauans, with more than 50 percent of the population declaring themselves as smokers.
Budget constraints mean there is no healthcare training on the island of Tokelau, and little funding goes toward physical health improvement.
A 2005 report found more than 91 percent of residents were not eating sufficient amounts of fruit and vegetables while a further 42 percent were significantly lacking in daily physical exercise.
3. Cook Islands
An estimated 90.1 percent of Cook Islanders are overweight, while 50.8 percent are deemed to be obese.
2017 research from the World Health Organisation found more than 30 percent of children in the Cook Islands were obese.
The Cook Islands MInistry of Health cited numerous behavioural, socio-economic and environmental factors as the causes of such alarming obesity levels, and announced plans to improve education programmes about nutrition in schools.
Researchers have often claimed governments across the South Pacific to be traditionally reluctant to invest in raising awareness about health and dietary issues
In Nauru, the world’s smallest island nation, obesity is seen as a symbol of affluence, success and social status.
According to the CIA World Factbook, a staggering 94.5 percent of Nauru’s 10,000 residents are deemed to be overweight, while 45.6 percent are categorised as obese.
A further 31 percent of Naurans are diabetic.
Hailed as ‘the least visited, most obese country on earth’ by the British Telegraph, only a US territory comes ahead of Nauru in the world rankings making it the most overweight sovereign state on the planet.
1. American Samoa
An unincorporated US territory in the idyllic waters of the South Pacific, a staggering 74.6 percent of the American Samoan population is regarded as obese making if the fattest country in the world.
American Samoa is in the grip of a malnutrition epidemic, with much of the population relying on processed, low quality foods imported from the US for sustenance.
A lack of health education is also a contributing factor in the rise of overweight, obesity and chronic disease on the island territory.
In 2017, Sophie Morgan, foreign reporter with the British Guardian, spoke to a 28-year-old American Samoan woman at a diabetes clinic who didn’t understand how she had developed the disease or how to manage it.
Some analysts claim Pacific Islanders are genetically predisposed to gaining greater amounts of weight than their Western counterparts.
Jonathan Shaw, Associate Director of Australia’s Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, told CNN Pacific Islanders have a naturally bigger build than Caucasian adults, but he warned this genetic predisposition does not account for the spiralling increase in obesity across the Pacific region in recent years.
A contrasting 2014 report claims colonial settlers from Europe and later Australia are to blame for teaching the Islanders Western ways of eating and cooking like frying food rather than eating it boiled or raw.