General Question

Jeruba's avatar

If Americans are overweight, and overweight by greater amounts, than people in most other nations, and many diseases and disorders are tied to obesity, is the incidence of those conditions lower in other countries?

Asked by Jeruba (41907 points ) June 9th, 2009

It stands to reason that if Americans’ lifestyle and widespread chronic obesity are a severe health risk, and people elsewhere do not have the same level of risk, there should be lower national averages for those weight-affected conditions in other countries. Is this in fact the case? Can we say, for example, that France has lower rates of diabetes or Sweden has a lower incidence of heart disease?

And if the U.S. is above average in those ways, who is it that’s below average so that the average stays at a lower rate than ours?

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9 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Well, rates are calculated as number of events (say new cases of diabetes) over the average population during a certain period of time such as a month or a year – the average population is generally the number of people at risk at the midpoint of the above time period – therefore rates for different countries take into account the difference in populations and are comparable…therefore if a country, say France, has a lower population at risk, but a higher incidence of diabetes, their rate may be the same as ours (this is probably not true, in fact)

Incidence is a measure of the number of new occurences and is a different measure from a rate – to give you specific indidence data, I’d have to look that up

I believe the U.S. is above average in the total percetange of people at risk because a much higher percentage of people are consuming foods and living unhealthier lifestyles (for example maybe another country has a comparable population but in our country, mostly everyone eats fast food whereas in theirs, almost no one does)

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

There was a documentary a few years back that showed along with the increase in fast food chains around the world, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity is on the rise.

Darwin's avatar

Here is a ranking of country by obesity rates.

And here is an list of of the top ten countries with the top rates of diabetes, both by percentage and by actual number of cases.

At a quick glance, it would appear that while obesity contributes to actual cases of diabetes, genetics also plays a vital role.

I do not think that obesity can be said to be the sole cause of diabetes. However, it certainly is an important contributing factor.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Heart disease is rampant in the US as compared to other nations because of all the fatty processed foods available.
Compare that with Japan who does have some overweight people but isn’t nearly the epidemic it is in the states.

DarkScribe's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic Heart disease is rampant in the US as compared to other nations because of all the fatty processed foods available.

Yet there are anomalies with things like the Mediterranean diet that is strongly fat based yet the people who live on it have lower heart disease. I eat a variation of the Mediterranean diet (Lower carb) and have trouble keeping weight on. I cook in extra virgin olive oil, use it instead of butter, use it as dressing on salads and have no weight problem. I can only put weight on by eating large quantities of carbs. I used to keep my weight up with weight lifting, but now that I don’t eat many carbs, my ribs show through etc.

ragingloli's avatar

@DarkScribe
carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source, and thus will be burnt first. If you consume so many carbohydrates that the body can meet his energy demands by them alone, the additional fat will be stored in the body.

DarkScribe's avatar

@ragingloli carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source, and thus will be burnt first.

No, not quite true. Alcohol will always be burnt first which is why exercising when drinking is a waste of time. Alcohol, carbohydrates, fat, protein – the four energy sources.

Jack79's avatar

In theory yes, and you’ll find that there is enough statistical evidence out there to support your idea. But there are two things to consider:

1) in some other countries there are other types of problems not affecting Americans (higher AIDS rate, cancer due to heavy smoking, diet deficiencies in poorer countries).

2) The USA has a far better health system than most other countries, so that counterbalances the negative effects, allowing people to live longer, even with these conditions. So yes, you eat junk food, get fat, your arteries clog by the time you’re 60, and you then take a pill and live to be 80, which is the same age you’d die if you were living on a little island off the coast of Italy eating olives and dry rusks.

dannyc's avatar

One would think so, but as stated above there are many variables. I believe, though, that in spite of people being obese, that there should be no discrimination. I think it is tied to previous questions on Fluther about depression which I think sometimes manifests itself in overeating, and comfort eating over the norm. I hate all reality shows, except Biggest Loser where I see people conquer this demon and change their lives. As usual your questions make me think.

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