New Zealand is overweight - collectively the adult population
weighs more than 232,000 tonnes.
But while New Zealand accounts for only 0.08 per cent of the
total weight of the world adult population, it makes up 0.22
per cent of the world's excess weight due to obesity,
according to a new study.
Using 2005 data from the United Nations and World Health
Organisation, researchers from the London School of Hygiene
and Tropical Medicine estimate that the adult human
population weighs a total 287 million tonnes. Fifteen million
tonnes of this are classed as overweight - of which 3.5
million are obese.
Of New Zealand's total weight, 28,500 tonnes are overweight
and of that, 7700 tonnes are obese weight.
One of the study's authors, Professor Ian Roberts, said the
world was getting fatter and the study was a way to put
numbers on what everyone could see.
"The whole world is getting fat ... everybody's fat, I'm fat,
the Queen's fat - everybody," he told the Herald.
"Even the skinny people are fatter than they would have been
20 years ago."
But while New Zealand is weighing in heavy, the United States
is even worse. It has about 5 per cent of the world's adult
population but accounts for about a third of the excess
weight because of obesity.
If every other country was as overweight as the United
States, the world's total biomass would increase by 58
million tonnes, which is equal to about one billion more
people, according to Professor Roberts.
But if the population of every country had the same biomass
as Japan - one of the leanest countries - the world's total
biomass would fall by 14.6 million tonnes.
Professor Roberts said how fat a country was correlated to
how much fossil fuel it burned.
"Fossil fuel is making the whole world fat because food is
made out of fossil fuel ... and at the same time we move our
bodies less than through the whole course of human history,
burning fossil fuels instead to get around, and that's not
what we were designed to do."
New Zealanders liked to think they had a "clean, green image
and that everyone cycles everywhere" but the study's findings
showed otherwise, Professor Roberts said. "It's closer to the
US than most New Zealanders would like to think."
The researchers used country-specific data on body mass index
and heights to estimate the biomass of the world's adult
population and calculated the total biomass as the product of
population size and average body mass.
Obesity in New Zealand
* One in four adults (aged 15 years and over) is obese.
* 44.7 per cent of Maori adults are obese.
* One in every 12 children (aged 2 to 14 years) is
* One in every five children is overweight.
- Figures from the Ministry of Health