The Whole World Is Fat! And That Ends Up Costing $2 Trillion A Year : Goats and Soda Nearly a third of us are overweight, and some of the worst rates of obesity are in the developing world. All this corpulence takes a huge economic toll.

The Whole World Is Fat! And That Ends Up Costing $2 Trillion A Year

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Obesity is growing around the globe. Almost one-third of the world's population is now overweight and if current trends continue by 2030, more than 40 percent of the people on the planet will be overweight, according to a new analysis. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: The global management consulting firm McKinsey and Company finds waistlines are expanding everywhere and some of the fastest growth is in fast-growing emerging markets. The report says the ramifications of this trend go far beyond the poor health of overweight individuals.

Richard Dobbs, the head of McKinsey Global Institute, is one of the authors of the obesity report.

RICHARD DOBBS: This is a massive global economic issue.

BEAUBIEN: Obesity obviously has huge direct cost to health care systems, but Dobbs says the bigger cost is to lost productivity.

DOBBS: People who are suffering from obesity often work less and have to take more days off sick and end up maybe having to retire early or dying early.

BEAUBIEN: The United States has the highest obesity rate in the world, with more than 35 percent of Americans falling into that category, but some of the worst problems elsewhere are now in the developing world. In some cities in China for instance, more than half the residents are obese.

DOBBS: It seems that many of these emerging markets that are on this phenomenally fast growth trajectory are on an even faster obesity trajectory.

BEAUBIEN: The U.S. is followed on the list by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico and South Africa. The report makes it clear that the current obesity crisis is driven by major social changes over the last century. Food prices have dropped, jobs are less physically demanding, fast-food restaurants offer supersized menus. Dobbs says reversing the obesity trend will require equally large societal shifts. Cities need to be designed to encourage walking, corner stores should be stocked with healthy food choices rather than junk food.

DOBBS: Personally, I know if there's cheese in the fridge, I eat it. If the default is I open the fridge and there's not cheese there, I'll eat the celery.

BEAUBIEN: And to deal with the global fat problem, these types of shifts away from cheese and towards celery are going to have to happen worldwide.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.