Global Weight Gain Putting Increased Strain on the Planet

Highlights an interesting point as the blame for declining planetary resources is usually placed on population growth when it is not solely to blame, population weight is also a major issue.

James Lamper

If the levels of increasing fatness that have been reported occur globally it could have the same effect on the planet and its resources as an extra billion people.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated that the weight of the human population is 287 million tonnes, with 15 million of these coming from overweight and 3.5 million from obese people.

The research team then estimated the global average body weight which was 63 kg. In doing this found that there are large regional differences, North America has the highest average weight at 80.7 kg with Asia’s being much lower at 57.7 kg. 

Although only 6% of the world population live in North America it is responsible for a third of obese people worldwide. If all countries had the same weight levels as North America it would be equivalent to an extra 1 billion people on the planet. 

As a result although Asia accounts for 61% of the global population as its average weight is much lower than North America it only counts for 13% of the total weight of the world. 

Prof Ian Roberts said

“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.”

The researchers said that focusing on the obesity problems in individuals and groups is not helpful, as in reality we are all getting  fatter. However it is not fair to say that a lower average weight is a sign of poverty, as Japan shows you can have one of the best life expectancies and also have a lower average body weight. 

Although we place a lot of blame on population growth especially in the developing countries using up our planetary resources excess weight has a similar effect and needs to be better addressed so that we can achieve sustainability, for this we can look to Japan as an example. 

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