SANTIAGO – Mexico, Venezuela and Guatemala have been included on a list of the 10 countries with the highest obesity rates last year among people over 15.
Kuwait topped the Euromonitor consulting firm’s list, released here Thursday, followed by the United States, while Mexico ranked fifth, Venezuela sixth and Guatemala tenth.
In 2009, 38.7 percent of people over the age of 15 were considered obese in the United States, compared with 31.8 percent in Mexico, 29.6 percent in Venezuela and 27.5 percent in Guatemala.
Euromonitor said Latin America as a whole still has obesity rates far below those of developed countries, although it noted that that gap will become smaller.
The projection for 2020 is that six of the 10 most obese nations will be in the Latin American region: Venezuela, Guatemala, Uruguay, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
Latin America also has high numbers of overweight people, which indicates that the obesity trend will continue.
Chile, where 44.7 percent of people over 15 were overweight in 2009, ranked first in the region in that category and second worldwide, but because the concepts of obesity and excess weight are different that South American country is not among the nations with the highest rates of the former.
Obesity rates have risen considerably since 1980, when fast-food consumption began to increase in Latin America, and they are expected to climb even further because eating trends in the region point to greater consumption of food with high levels of saturated fat.
Low-income families in particular are increasingly opting for fast food over traditional meals because it is often less expensive.
Greater access to higher-fat food and increased urbanization – which results in more sedentary lifestyles – will contribute to higher obesity rates in the future, according to the report.
The statistical measure most often used to gauge excess weight and obesity is the Body Mass Index; the World Health Organization defines a person as overweight if his or her BMI is between 25-29 and as obese if his or her BMI is 30 or higher.
According to WHO estimates, a total of 1.6 billion adults worldwide were overweight in 2005 and at least 400 million were obese. EFE