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American Food Influence Causing Rising Obesity Rates in Developing World

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Many of the world's developing countries have begun developing a weight problem. According to a report from the Overseas Development Institute, there are now more than 900 million obese adults in developing nations.

Trends in urbanization and rising income levels in countries like China and Mexico have led to a favoring of American food—mainly for diets higher in rich ingredients, including meat, eggs and dairy products, as well as refined starches and processed sugars. Mexico now tops the U.S. in number of obese people.

The report notes the most significant rates of obesity are occurring in "middle income countries and the developing world." The Guardian reports: "an analysis of public data about what the world eats, says there are almost twice as many obese people in poor countries as in rich ones. In 2008, the figures were 904 million in developing countries, where most of the world's people live, compared with 557 million in industrialised nations."

And the blame may be on the governments, according to the report. They're not doing enough "to tackle the growing crisis," notes the Guardian, "partly due to politicians' reluctance to interfere at the dinner table, the powerful influence of farming and food lobbies and a large gap in public awareness of what constitutes a healthy diet."

The number of people who are overweight and rates of obesity have nearly doubled since 1980 in countries including China and Mexico, and have risen by one-third in South Africa. Countries in north Africa, the Middle East and Latin America are seeing obesity rates comparable to Europe.

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"The report highlights a paradox in the developing world," according to the Guardian. "As well as obesity, under-consumption remains a problem for hundreds of millions of people in poor countries, where progress on reducing stunting—low height to age—has been slow. Up to a third of infants in the developing world are stunted."

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