The world is getting fatter and dangerously so. In 1975, there were 105 million people across the world classified as obese. That number has increased more than six times in the last 40 years to 641 million in 2014, according to analysis of trends in Body Mass Index or BMI.

In May, a study in The Lancet analysed data from more than 1,600 population-based studies of more than 19 million men and women from 186 countries and found that obesity rates had skyrocketed from 3.2% in 1975 to 10.8% in 2014 for men, and from 6.4% to 14.9% for women.

A person is considered obese when he or she has a body mass index of more than 25 kilograms per square meter.

An interactive map created from the data used in this study by blogger Max Galka shows exactly when each country started becoming fat and tipped over into obesity.


Countries with the biggest obesity problems are China, which has overtaken the United States to have the most number of obese people at 90 million. Pacific islands like Samoa, Tonga and Tukalu have seen their obesity rates shoot up by more than 20%. Six English-speaking countries – the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand have almost a fifth of the world’s obese population.

The countries where obesity seems to be most under control are North Korea and Japan where obesity has risen only by about 1% and 2% respectively.

The map shows that India, not surprisingly, started with obesity rates of less than 2% in 1975 and ended up with rates of between 2% and 5% in 2014. However, India has a fast-growing obesity problem with at least 20 million women and almost 10 million men now obese in the country, according to the same data. This means that, even though obesity rates maybe relatively low due to the large overall population, India stands fifth when ranked for the most number of obese men in the world and third for the most number of obese women. In 1975, India was ranked 19th for obesity among 186 countries of the world.

India is also in the grips of a quiet swell in childhood obesity for which there have been no comprehensive studies but only small regional studies that are indicators of the larger problem. A 2012 study of 17 schools in Madurai, for instance, showed that among 18,001 students aged five to 18, 9.5% overweight and 3% obese.