PARIS - Citizens of the world's richest countries are getting fatter and fatter and the United States is leading the charge, an organization of leading economies said Thursday in its first ever obesity forecast.
Three out of four Americans will be overweight or obese by 2020, and disease rates and health care spending will balloon, unless governments, individuals and industry cooperate on a comprehensive strategy to combat the epidemic, the study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said.
The Paris-based organization, which brings together 33 of the world's leading economies, is better known for forecasting deficit and employment levels than for measuring waistlines. But the economic cost of excess weight -- in health care, and in lives cut short and resources wasted -- is a growing concern for many governments.
Franco Sassi, the OECD senior health economist who authored the report, blamed the usual suspects for the increase.
"Food is much cheaper than in the past, in particular food that is not particularly healthy, and people are changing their lifestyles, they have less time to prepare meals and are eating out more in restaurants," said Sassi, a former London School of Economics lecturer who worked on the report for three years.
That plus the fact that people are much less physically active than in the past means that the ranks of the overweight have swelled to nearly 70 percent in the U.S. this year from well under 50 percent in 1980, according to the OECD.
In 10 years, a full 75 percent of Americans will be overweight, making it "the fattest country in the OECD," the report said.