Saturday, 22 March 2008

WRONG: America is the most obese nation on Earth

Make no mistake, Americans are fat. Back in 2002, 24 per cent of Mississippi’s residents were clinically obese (having a body mass index of 30 or above). That’s nearly a quarter of them qualifying as dangerously fat. According to the American Obesity Association, 127 million Americans are “overweight”, half of them again are “obese” and 9 million are “seriously obese”. And that’s the AOA talking – they know their lard.

Yet despite being the home of Hardee’s $2.69 Country Breakfast Burrito, which contains three days’ recommended fat intake in a single serving, America is not only not the fattest nation in the world, it’s not even in the top five.

According to the World Health Organisation, the following are the worst offenders:

1. Nauru
2. Tonga
3. Federated States Of Micronesia
4. The Cook Islands
5. Niue

All of them are in the South Pacific, where the relative cheapness of imported junk food has had a disastrous effect on public health.

Nauru is both the fattest nation on earth and its smallest independent republic. It's also brilliantly weird. Some 13,000 citizens inhabit eight square miles of land, most of which is uninhabitable thanks to decades of phosphate mining. this is phosphate. With the phosphate resources running out, in the late 1980s, the government ploughed a large portion of the economy into a West End musical called Leonardo, A Portrait Of Love, a floparoo which closed before its backers’ charter flight even made it to London.

Throwing bad money after worse, in the 1990s the island became an off-shore money-laundering haven for Russian gangsters, and processed as much as US$70billion through its 400 banks (not bad for eight square miles). This behaviour qualified Nauru as the first “rogue state” under America’s 2001 Patriot Act.

It now makes its money housing asylum-seekers on behalf of the Australian government.

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