THE WORLD IS ROUND -- and so are a growing number of its inhabitants.
Amid all the attention Americans' expanding waistlines are getting in the United States, another trend has gone less noticed: According to the World Health Organization, the rest of the world is packing on pounds almost as fast. More than half of adults in Australia, Saudi Arabia and Mexico are overweight. In China, one in five adults is heavy. Even sub-Saharan Africa, where most of the world's hungry live, is seeing an increase in obesity, especially in urban areas. Altogether there are more than a billion overweight people around the globe, compared to 800 million who are malnourished.
In many ways, of course, this is progress. More people around the world are benefiting from globalization's bounty and aren't as hungry as their parents were. Since 1990, the global rate of malnutrition has declined an average of 1.7% a year. Especially in countries such as China and India, incomes are rising, food prices are falling and more people can afford more "Westernized" (and fattening) diets.
But this expanding cornucopia comes at a price. People are eating fewer whole grains and more refined ones. They're ingesting more processed sweeteners and fats. They're cooking less and eating out more -- at places such as McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken, both of which now sell more meals abroad than domestically. Meanwhile, a growing number are working in less labor-intensive jobs.