February 3, 2012

Data point: A majority of consumers now see themselves as overweight

Posted by: in North America

Across the globe, a majority of consumers now consider themselves to be overweight. A Nielsen survey of more than 25,000 people in 56 countries, published last week, revealed that 53% of consumers think they are very, somewhat or a little overweight, up from 50% three years ago.

North Americans were most likely to say this (63%). But while only 9% described themselves as very overweight, it’s estimated that as many as a third of Americans are obese. And recent analysis from The Lancet forecasts this will rise to around half the population by 2030 if current trends continue.

In Europe, 20% of respondents said they are “very” or “somewhat overweight,” well under what the European Commission reports: that more than half the people in EU member states are overweight or obese, with weight problems and obesity “increasing at an alarming rate.” (The U.K., with about 24% of adults classified as obese, is the most overweight nation in the region.) In response, “fat taxes” on some foods and beverages, introduced last year in Denmark and Hungary, are gaining traction.

By contrast, Asia Pacific and the Middle East/Africa had the highest proportion of respondents describing themselves as “underweight” (15% for both regions). India, for example, is home to almost a third of the world’s underweight children. The Gates Foundation and other organizations are increasingly turning their attention to how small farmers in developing nations can increase their yields as a way to address food security.

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