Why Do the World’s Fattest People Live on Islands?

It’s not piña coladas. Evolution has been overwhelmed by Western lifestyles.

BY JOSHUA E. KEATING

Last week, a study published in the British medical journal The Lancet found that worldwide obesity rates have increased significantly over the past three decades. By far, the greatest increase was in the Pacific islands. In the world’s fattest country — Nauru — the average body mass index (BMI) is now an off-the-charts 35.03 for women and 33.85 for men. (Above 30 is generally considered obese.) The Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa, French Polynesia, and Palau aren’t far behind. Several Caribbean islands– including Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and St. Kitts and Nevis — are also in the obese category. Of the 13 countries with average BMIs over 30, only Kuwait and Egypt (where just the women average over 30) aren’t islands. (Although the United States, with average BMIs of 28.33 for women and 28.46 for men, is well on its way.) So why are island countries so obese?

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