So here is the global obesity picture. The World Health Organization slides for age standardized BMI a women and men over 20. WHO estimates that 1 billion people are obese worldwide, increasing to 1.5 billion by 2015. It is no longer a problem in the developed world but is increasing in low and middle income countries. Only some areas which have no reporting, or have geographical or political conflicts appear not to be seeing an increase in obesity.
This graph is data from the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ) and depicts the obesity picture in the developed world. The different bars report data from 1990 to 2009, all are increasing. It is a little hard to see but all of the countries which have measured data have higher rates than self-reported data. South Korea and Japan on the far left are probably inaccurate as obesity in their societies should probably be calculated from a BMI of 25 or 27, not a BMI of 30.
Is obesity leveling off? Possibly yes in children in Australia, China, England, France, Netherlands,New Zealand, Sweden Switzerland and USA, Olds T, et al, Evidence that the prevalence of childhood overweight in plateauing: data from nine countries Int J Pediatr Obes 2011 Oct;6(5) (5-6):342-60. PubMed: Evidence prevalence childhood obesity plateauing
An historical note here. A great many analyses assume that our obesity problem began in the post-war period or at least from the 1970s. That is not quite correct. As this poorly copied graph shows, the increase in BMI can be traced back to the 1870s. This is from The Changing Body by a number of economists, including one Nobel Prize winner, Robert Fogel, Roderick Floud, Bernard Harris and Sok Chul Hong.
Another paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research shows a similar timeline.
What are the projections?
The OECD projections for the selected developed nations to 2020.
The point is: all lines rise to the right: increased levels of adiposity throughout the population.
Is obesity leveling off? Possibly yes in children in Australia, China, England, France, Netherlands,New Zealand, Sweden Switzerland and USA, Olds T, et al, Evidence that the prevalence of childhood overweight in plateauing: data from nine countries Int J Pediatr Obes 2011 Oct;6(5) (5-6):342-60. PubMed: Evidence prevalence childhood obesity plateauing.
Finucane et al found that between 1980 and 2008, mean BMI worldwide increased by 0·4 kg/m(2) per decade for men and 0·5 kg/m(2) per decade for women. National BMI change for women ranged from non-significant decreases in 19 countries to increases of more than 2·0 kg/m(2) per decade in nine countries in Oceania. Male BMI increased in all but eight countries, by more than 2 kg/m(2) per decade in Nauru and Cook Islands. Male and female BMIs in 2008 were highest in some Oceania countries, reaching 33·9 kg/m(2) (32·8-35·0) for men and 35·0 kg/m(2) (33·6-36·3) for women in Nauru. Female BMI was lowest in Bangladesh (20·5 kg/m(2), 19·8-21·3) and male BMI in Democratic Republic of the Congo 19·9 kg/m(2) (18·2-21·5), with BMI less than 21·5 kg/m(2) for both sexes in a few countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and east, south, and southeast Asia. The USA had the highest BMI of high-income countries. In 2008, an estimated 1·46 billion adults (1·41-1·51 billion) worldwide had BMI of 25 kg/m(2) or greater, of these 205 million men (193-217 million) and 297 million women (280-315 million) were obese. Lancet: Finucane_global_bmi increases