Due To U.S. Obesity, Global Population Is 17 Million Tons Overweight

Although the United States represents just 5 percent of the global population, it contributes to almost one-third of the world’s global obese weight, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine concluded in a study released today. The U.S.’s rising obesity rate may lead to a future food scarcity problem, the researchers warned.

The study calculated the weight of the global population at 316 million tons, and estimated that about 17 million tons of that figure is due to the growing numbers of people who are overweight. Increasing levels of fatness around the world will threaten future food security, since current levels of obesity could have the same impact on global resources as an additional half billion people.

Researchers concluded that although the average global body weight is 137 pounds, there are huge differences across regions. The average is 178 pounds in North America and 127 pounds in Asia, for example. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the United States has the highest biomass of any other nation:

The increased global demand for food is likely to contribute to higher food prices. The researchers point out that affluent nations like the United States will be less impacted by rising prices than poorer countries will — despite the fact that the U.S. is the root of the problem.

Rates of obesity in the United States show no signs of abating. In fact, some estimates predict that 75 percent of Americans will be overweight by 2020.