The world population today is unprecedented: it is obviously the largest is human history and is continuing to grow. However, as a whole the world’s population is also the richest and best-fed in human history. In 2015 we noted that those living in poverty has declined to less than 10% of the global population for the first time ever. As our population has grown we have massively increased our ability to feed more people. So much so in fact that, as we reported last year on this blog, there are currently more people living who are obese than who are underweight (at 13% and 9% respectively).

This is obviously not a good thing – people who are overweight are more likely to suffer diseases and die younger. And indeed, new research from scientists in Australia and New Zealand suggests that the problem is bigger than might have been thought. A team from MAFF Fitness Pty Ltd and the Auckland University of Technology has determined that up to 76% of the world’s population is “overfat”. That is, over three-quarters of the population has “sufficient excess body fat to impair health” and this includes some who exercise or even play competitive sport. This measure looks at the amount of fat one carries rather than the BMI which just looks at weight and height of a person. As the CEO of MAFF, Dr Philip Maffetone stated:

“Many overweight individuals, however, are not necessarily classified clinically as overweight or obese, despite the common use of body mass index as the clinical classifier of obesity and overweight.”

The concern is that overfat individuals suffer chronic diseases and contribute to climbing healthcare costs which are already growing in many countries due to ageing populations. At the other end of the scale, the study also indicated that 9 t 10% of the world’s population may be underfat. As Dr Maffetone stated, this number is made of those who are underfed and even starving (this number is declining worldwide) and also those suffering disease, anorexia or “excessive exercisers”. In the middle then is those with normal body-fat percentages and this might be as little as 14%. In short, we might be getting older, we might be better fed, but we may also be too well-fed.  

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...