We’ve heard over and over again that Mexico and the United States hold the title for the world’s most obese nations. But Mexico and the United States only top the list of industrialized nations. New research from the Food Security Index shows that the world’s most obese nations are actually in the Middle East, with Kuwait topping the list at a 42.8 percent obesity rate. With almost half of the population obese, Kuwait has a clear lead, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the U.A.E. following with obesity rates between 34 and 35 percent. Mexico and the United States, meanwhile, rank at #7 and #8 on the list, respectively.
Obesity rankings do vary widely across the world, with the smallest global obesity rates found in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nepal, Vietnam, and Madagascar, where obesity rates hover around one or two percent.
So why Kuwait? Many say that Kuwait’s rapid rise in prosperity has led to over-indulgence and rampant consumerism. Fast food, in particular, is a problem in Kuwait, which is one of the world’s wealthiest nations per capita. McDonald’s, which began opening restaurants in Kuwait after the Gulf War, has already opened 65 locations in the tiny country.
On the other hand, researchers have also found that there may be a link between food insecurity and obesity worldwide. “The most food-insecure, who are often the poorest, do not have sufficient access to quality food,” researchers said in the study. “Particularly in developed countries, such arguments posit, there is a dearth of healthy food available for the poorest. This environment may lead to dependence on energy-dense food products, which do not provide sufficient nutrition and ultimately lead to obesity.”
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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi