In the news today, the Overseas Development Institute's Future Diets report says this is due to changing diets and a shift from eating cereals and grains to the consumption of more fats, sugar, oils and animal produce.
The ODI predicts a huge increase in heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
A total of 904 million people in developing countries are now classed as overweight or above. This compares to 557 million in high-income countries. Since the ODI's report began in 1980, the global population nearly doubled.
At the same time, under-nourishment is still recognized to be a problem for hundreds of millions of people in developing countries, particularly children.
Among individual countries, the greatest growth in overweight people occurred in south east Asia, where the percentage tripled. The report found that overweight and obesity rates had almost doubled in China and Mexico, and had risen by a third in South Africa since 1980. Many countries in the Middle East also had a high percentage of overweight adults. This happened because a large group of people in emerging economies used their rising incomes by living in urban centers without taking much physical exercise. Is this what civilization has done to us? Surely there's more to life than eating.
In my own experience, this same free will allows me to choose health. Only natural foods like fruit, vegetables, cereal and protein in the form of fish or fowl will enter my body.
For instance, this morning I peeled and ate two mandarins (local food) and a slice of pineapple (imported). An hour later, I cooked 1/3 cup of rolled oats into porridge. One cup of tomato soup will probably form my lunch, and this evening, my husband will cook a proper meal with fish and vegetables. Given my disability to take much exercise, I'm eating much less than when I was physically fit. However, my measures aren't altogether successful. Although my arms and legs are slim, I can't shift the bulge in my midriff. Most women over 70 years seem to have one. But that doesn't reassure me. Must try harder.
What can be done on a general scale to change the rising tide of obesity? Perhaps governments could use more focused advertising for public health issues, as they do to limit smoking in developed countries. That's a huge challenge. How can a campaign tempt people away from their cravings?