No Country For Thin Men: 75% Of Americans To Be Obese By 2020

Tyler Durden's picture

While much heart palpitations are generated every month based on how much of a seasonal adjustment factor is used to fudge US employment, many forget that a much more serious long term issue for the US (assuming anyone cares what happens in the long run) is a far more ominous secular shift in US population - namely the fact that everyone is getting fatter fast, aka America's "obesity epidemic." And according to a just released analysis by BNY ConvergEx' Nicholas Colas, things are about to get much worse, because as the OECD predicts, by 2020 75% of US the population will be obese. What this implies for the tens of trillions in underfunded healthcare "benefits" in the future is all too clear. In the meantime, thanks to today's economic "news", fat people everywhere can get even fatter courtesy of ever freer money from the Chairman, about to be paradropped once more to keep nominal prices high and devalue the dollar even more in the great "race to debase". Our advice - just pretend you are going to college and take out a $100,000 loan, spending it all on Taco Bells. But don't forget to save enough for the latest iPad, and the next latest to be released in a few weeks, ad inf.

From ConvergEx:

Summary: It’s a shocking anomaly that a highly developed country with the world’s largest GDP also has the world’s most obvious obesity endemic. Nearly 34% of United States citizens are obese, which is triple the rate of most of its peer countries. Notably, Americans both drink and smoke less than much of the industrialized world, making this problem all the more puzzling. The causes appear to be largely cultural, with low food costs playing a supporting role. Obesity in the U.S. is more prevalent along certain groups, but by some estimates an astounding 3 out of 4 Americans will be obese or overweight by 2020. The obvious comparison here is to smoking, a public health challenge that has declined in popularity for decades due to higher taxes and public awareness of the risks involved. The answers to the obesity problem will be much tougher, however. And with widespread use of government money for Food Stamps (+20% of all households) and school lunches (+30% of all children), the Federal government is squarely in the middle of the debate.

Consider some wacky “all-American” dining options. Burger King’s Manhattan Whopper Bar offers an aptly-named “Pizza Burger”– a ginormous cheeseburger accentuated by pepperoni and chopped into 6 slices. Denny’s spices up the classic but boring grilled cheese by driving 4 mozzarella sticks into the already gooey cheddar goodness (Fried Cheese Melt). And IHOP delivers fluffy pancakes stuffed with hunks of cheesecake drowning in whipped cream and splashed with powdered sugar (New York Cheesecake Pancakes). Not to mention they’re only 4 bucks.

Not to be outdone, Las Vegas is home to another appropriately named (and self-proclaimed) producer of “nutritional pornography” – the Heart Attack Grill. Menu options include a “Quadruple Bypass Burger,” “ButterFat Shake” and all-you-can-eat “Flatliner Fries.” If you’re over 350 pounds you eat for free, and shots are served in 4 ounce pours. The restaurant made headlines last month when a 40-something man suffered a heart attack (what else?) while chowing down in its dining room. Go ahead, you can chuckle – he’s alive and kicking somewhere out West. At the time of his heart attack he’d been eating the 6,000 calorie “Triple Bypass Burger” featuring 3 half-pound patties, half a fried onion, cheese, and 15 slices of bacon.

So is it really any surprise that 1 in 3 Americans are obese? The United States has a bigger obesity problem than any other industrialized country in the world, with a 33.8% obesity rate, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Note that obesity is defined according to a body mass index (BMI), which calculates human body fat based on weight and height. BMI readings of 30 or greater signify obesity, while a score between 25 and 30 indicates “overweightness.”

A typical man of 5’10” should weigh, for example, about 170 pounds. The U.S.’s next closest “competitor” is Mexico with a 30% obesity rate, while Canada and the U.K. have rates of 24% and 23%, respectively. Other highly developed countries such as Germany, Italy and France have rates below 15%, and Japan is all the way down at 3.9%. India’s citizens are the trimmest, with a 2.1% obesity rate. The average for the 34 OECD member countries is 16.9% – exactly half that of the United States.

Obesity is one obvious culprit for the exorbitant amount of money that Americans spend on health care. Health expenditures (including capital investment in health care infrastructure) are just shy of $8,000 a year per person, which is almost 50% more than in any other country, and represents nearly one-fifth of total GDP. Expenditures in Norway and Switzerland, numbers 2 and 3 on the list, represent a little more than $5,000 per person. The Brits spend about $3,500 a person, while the Japanese spend just $2,900 per person. Indonesia brings up the rear with only $99 spent per capita, although that comparison is obviously skewed by its emerging economy status.

Despite access to high-quality health care services, facilities and infrastructure, Americans live 78.2 years on average, or more than a year less than the OECD member nation average of 79.5 years. Our neighbors to the north and nearly all of our European counterparts live somewhere between 80 and 82 years, while the Japanese live longer than anyone else (83 years).

Just to quickly check off a couple of obvious other behavioral/health boxes, we know our lives generally aren’t cut short by smoking or excessive alcohol consumption. Sixteen percent of Americans are daily smokers, compared with the OECD average of 22.1%. In France, for example, more than 1 in 4 people are regular smokers, while a whopping 40% of Greeks fess up to having at least one daily smoke. Comparatively we don’t drink that much either. On average for ages 15 and up, Americans consume 8.8 liters (298 ounces) of alcohol annually. The OECD average is 9.1 liters, and the French top the chart (surprise, surprise) at 12.3 liters.

There’s no denying that the mortality rate phenomenon is at least somewhat of an obesity issue. In the U.S., Japan and select industrialized European countries, the correlation between obesity rates and life expectancy is greater than 80% (refer to this chart and several others following the text ). Obesity is a disease and while it isn’t often listed as a “Cause of Death” the outcomes are deadly. Since the cardiovascular system is the number one affected area when someone is overweight, it should come as no surprise that more people die from heart attacks in the U.S. than in most other countries. For every 100,000 Americans, 129 die from a heart attack. The OECD average is 117, while in the “fit” countries of Japan and Korea heart attack fatalities occur in fewer than 40 out of 100,000 people.

As far as root causes, it’s a basic economic principle that people consume more of things that are cheaper, and food in the U.S. is relatively cheap compared to the rest of the world. The food component represents 14% of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), meaning that on average 14% of our total expenditures is spent on food.However, the “Food at home” component of the CPI is a mere 8%, and since most Americans eat most of their meals at home, this is likely a more logical number to use. In China and India, on the other hand, food weightings in their respective inflation indexes are 31% and 27%. Yes, this is clearly the result of lower incomes and food prices set to a large degree by global trends; the correlation/causation to consumption is still valid, however. The Chinese and Indians rank in the bottom 3 in terms of obesity rates, at 2.9% and 2.1%, respectively. As for more economically comparable countries, Canada (17% of CPI), Australia (17%), Italy (16%) and the U.K. (11%) have more similar food component cost weightings to the U.S.’s, and their citizens are substantially slimmer. Either way (economic or cultural explanation), mass industrialization of farms and food processing in the States has resulted in a dramatic lower food prices and an unmistakable trend to overconsumption.

Perhaps Americans work so much that we simply don’t have time to be active. After all, we work more than anyone else in the world, right? Wrong. We take less time off, but in terms of hours worked per week, we have it pretty good. At an average of 33.6 hours per week, Americans actually work less than the French (37.6 hours per week), who have a reputation for more slack work habits. People in the U.S. also work less than those in Japan (40.7 hours per week) and Turkey (49.7 hours per week), but the Japanese and Turkish have much lower obesity rates, as do the French.

However, while we work just as much as (if not more than) most other people, Americans take fewer vacation days. Including paid public holidays and voluntary vacation time, workers in the U.S. have an average of 25 days off per year. This compares with 40 in France, 36 in the U.K. and 31 in Italy, for example. Brazilians take the most time off (41 days), while Canadians take the least (19 days). Vacation time doesn’t appear to be correlated to obesity, but helps to validate the notion that Americans are among the hardest-working people in the world, even if hours worked are in line with other countries.

We’re left with a rather unspecific, and somewhat unsatisfying, conclusion that the obesity endemic in America is caused by broad cultural factors and personal responsibility issues. High-risk groups include African-American and Mexican-American women, who have respective obesity rates of 46% and 35%, and those in lower income groups. Women with lower levels of educational achievement are 1.3 times more likely to be obese, though virtually no disparity exists among men of varying education levels. And Southerners and Midwesterners carry more weight than their Northern and Western counterparts.

Nonetheless, 75% of Americans will be obese or overweight by 2020, according to OECD projections. We’ll have to see how the ongoing national health care debate plays out, but this undoubtedly means more government spending in terms of both preventative care and educational programs. In its food stamp program, the government has already begun educating recipients on nutrition, yet soft drinks, candy, cookies and ice cream are eligible items for purchase with food stamp benefits. I would expect this to change considering we’re on track to be 40% obese in the next decade, and likely even more government intervention will be necessary to curb some culturally-ingrained bad habits.

In an admittedly altruistic way, the U.S. government is a major enabler to the obesity problem. While we’re not debating the necessity of food stamps, they do provide incremental spending power, and the fact that lower-income people are more likely to be obese means that the government has a profound responsibility to ramp up nutritional education and hone in on the obesity problem. With +20% of households using food stamps, keep in mind that any policy shift will be significant for a wide swath of companies from supermarkets to producers of food.

So far government efforts have been mostly ineffective “nudges.” Policies enacted in the past few years that mandate calorie labeling in fast-food and chain restaurants have thus far had no impact on calorie consumption, according to a recently-published study (link below). While relying on people to use nutritional information to make healthier meal choices wasn’t effective, giving customers at a fast-food restaurant the option of downsizing their dishes did in fact work. About a third of customers opted for the smaller portion (versus less than 1% who asked to downsize on their own) and subsequently ate less. And accepting the downsized option had no effect on the amount of food uneaten at the end of the meal, translating into even more calorie savings. People in the study generally didn’t have the self-control to make smarter nutritional choices on their own, but it seems that some sense of self-control was activated when they were pushed to make healthier decisions.

With proof that intervention can in fact work, the Federal government has a role to play, whether it likes it or not. When you’re handing over money for food to 1 in 5 households and when about a third of all children are in notoriously non-nutritious subsidized school lunch programs, there’s certainly a moral responsibility.

Obesity is essentially the “Smoking” of the 21st century. And just as smoking rates were lessened thanks to government intervention, the obesity problem will need governmental action as well. Yes, it’s been written about countless times and there aren’t any immediate investment implications, but this topic is worth having in the back of your mind. The answers here are not as obvious as cigarette smoking; no one is going to back higher food taxes to reduce consumption. But the problem is significant and costly to the U.S. economy.

Link to study on effectiveness of calorie-labeling:

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Miffed Microbiologist's picture

I am sorry sorry to hear your story. People pontificate here on solutions which may make a lively debate, however you are living the horrors of watching someone perform slow suicide. This must be a true hell for you and my heart and well wishes go out to you. I have dealt with family/ close friends with alcohol addictions and I can relate to your feelings of helplessness. In many ways this type of eating is an addiction. When you're eating your 10 th snickers bar this is emotional eating not satiating a physical hunger. The problems here run deep and profound. Almost as if we're in so much dispair as a society this is the only thing that can provide a relief. Unfortunately that relief is only temporary, realities of the world come crashing back and you return to the food for a quick relief again. Endless cycle of hell.

TruthInSunshine's picture

Old Man, you need to intervene in that situation some how, some way.

If you can't do it physically, you need to devise a way using your wits, or reach out for the help of someone who can help you do so.


That's easier said than done, I'm sure, but where there is a will there is a way.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

"As far as root causes, it’s a basic economic principle that people consume more of things that are cheaper, and food in the U.S. is relatively cheap compared to the rest of the world."

So what are you saying?  It's OK if the price of food doubles?  Let's tax the sh!t out of food?  Let's cut off food stamps, because there's just too much eating going on?

But why stop there?  This could be a social engineer's paradise.  Let's start a strong anti-eating campaign, aim it at young women, and stand back and see what happens?  Start a "war on food"?  Create a cabinet level department with an Obesity Czar?  Have the Homeland Diet Security Police roust people in public and ship them to FEMA fat farms?  How about "no knock raids" on people's pantries?  

TBT or not TBT's picture

Among calorie sources from food, carbohydrates are the cheapest to produce.

And eating carbohydrates causes you body to produce insulin, which in turn causes your fat cells to store more fat.   Poor people eat more carbohydrates because they are cheaper foods, and as such are fatter.

tulip_permabull's picture

ha ha! "war on food". Excellent. The next crisis that won't be wasted.

brewing's picture

i just fried me up a peanut butter and nana samich while reading this article...

dugorama's picture


Range 55.56 - 56.67 52 week 37.31 - 59.90 Open 55.96 Vol / Avg. 165,021.00/271,067.00 Mkt cap 1.30B P/E 16.06 Div/yield 0.25/1.77 EPS 3.52 Shares 22.99M Beta 0.89 Inst. own 82%


Rubbish's picture

Winning ! I'm already fat.

tarsubil's picture

The before and after for quitting coke.

Abiotic Oil's picture

She is clearly part of the 75%.  Looks to be at least 25% body fat.

kekekekekekeke's picture

25% body fat is fairly respectable for women, she's probably 40%

LongSoupLine's picture

she's more clearly part of meeting political quotas rather than hiring the most qualified (also read: Holder).  What a f'ing joke.

Burgess Shale's picture

The article states the obesity rate for African-American women is 46%.

European American's picture

"The article states the obesity rate for African-American women is 46%."


Gournds for a hate crime?

TheGardener's picture

Our esteemed leader would never make this fat-fuck-piss-off
face, so it must be the smell. They all do smell.

The Big Ching-aso's picture



Land of the fat, home of the depraved?

Land of the fat, home of the enslaved?

Land of the fat, home of the deranged?

Land of the fat, home of the sedate?

I could go on like forever here.

HamyWanger's picture

I am horrified by the level of hate and abuse directed at overweight people I see in this thread and more generally on the libertarian/financial blogosphere.

TOLERANCE and ACCEPTANCE of people different than you, is it so hard to do?

My weight is 385 lb., and I'm happy of that. I don't plan any change in my diet or life. I much prefer being a bit "round" than being a puny libertarian computer nerd

TuesdayBen's picture

HeavyWanger, the Overweight Troll

HamyWanger's picture

Yes, and so what?

The majority always becomes the norm. When obese people will be the majority not only in the US, but also on television and other medias, what do you think will happen? 

Skinny people like you will feel like misfits, and people will laugh at them in the streets. 

Sudden Debt's picture

You call for acceptance for round people... But you hate nerds... :)
I don't have problem with chubby people. But I'm a smoker and if I get lung cancer it's my own fault. If you guys get a hart attack it's your own fault.

Ropingdown's picture

I wouldn't  mind a bit if people fed themselves to obesity or drank alcohol excessively or smoked PROVIDED that I was not forced to pay taxes to cover their healthcare on Medicare or Medicaid, and provided I could legally join a health insurance plan that would not allow the obese, smokers, acoholics, or drug addicts into the plan.  Ah, but I AM forced to give up income to cover those people and it is against the law to operate a health insurance plan without those people.  Alcohol and illegal drugs (esp. coke, pcp, and meth) cause an enormous percentage of the organ damage through self-induced bouts of extremely high blood pressure, a very expensive self-inflicted injury.  SO, I have a simple answer: Let us form such health plans and not pay for the free care of self-inflicted injury and there would finally be an incentive for people to take the f'g trouble to live a reasonably health life.  It's all about the Benjamins.

Overflow-admin's picture

Google essential fatty acids FTW, cherries against BPA FTW!

The Big Ching-aso's picture



"My weight is 385 lb......."

If you took a healthy dump you could probably get rid of 185 lbs instantaneously.


European American's picture

It's not "hate and abuse" that you read into the posts here. It's the downright disqust for the inability of self control. 

TheGardener's picture

Downright disgust for the gluttony and what a body could look like. Next best question is political; why do the inactive have the means to make up in eating ? Most serious
question is : What role play the genes ? Fortunately the
starving from the old world made it to the new, bringing
with them the genes of survival, "making fat out of fresh
air while hiding under a stone" , that is the part of the
populace that was meant to survive hardship, not to be
mistaken by the chosen people.

Self control or the lack thereof is for a chosen few,
and they deserve no mercy, I agree with you.

Cast Iron Skillet's picture

ummmm ... I'll take the computer nerd, thank you.

Mariposa de Oro's picture

Normally I don't even read your posts, Hamy, muchless respond to them, BUT this time, whether you're being sarcasitic or not, you've hit on something.  Yes 'fat' people are treated very badly.  Some are fat because they don't control their eating, exercise, etc.  Then there are the others, who are fat due to a medical condition.  I'm much heavier now than 20 years ago because I have an underactive thyroid.  Yes, I take medication for it and I have slimmed down, feel much better and am more active.  However, I don't believe I'll be back in those size 7s again.  I don't have the level of energy I had say eight years ago but more than two years ago.  I could continue but you get the idea.  There are many folks around who are overweight because of some medical condition.  Combine that with GMO food, chemicals in the environment, stress, etc., and this is what you get.

tgatliff's picture

Exactly... Any time now I expect to hear a government official say "we have a program for that.."..

The odd part about this article is that is is allot about nothing.   The article says that 34% of the population is currently obese, which seems about right considering the age of the nation, but then goes on to say that "by some estimates 75% will be obese by 2020"... Now what estimates are those??   Also, what is the age groups we are talking about? Nope.. None of that... So, if the shock factor is what the author was going for, then why not stay that 'by some estimates, 99.999999% will be obese, diabetic, and all driving free gov skooters" by 2020... These "estimates" are much much more alarming...

Oleander's picture

Ever read the side effects of Antidepressants?   Lethargy and hunger cravings.  These drugs contribute to weight gain by making you very hungry and very tired. If these things are in the water not  to mention everyones medicine closet then I can see how obesity rates would go up.  Just do a search of "antidepressants and weight gain".

AmericanFUPAcabra's picture

I know lots of folks who take those mang. Most are not obese or even overweight. Im sure it could be a side effect, but given the amount of people that take them (1 in 4 US adults or somesuch?) there will be trends. 

Lethargy comes from having all the fucking toys we have. You get creative when you have no electricity and wi-fi.

I blame the weight gain on GMO corns, soybeans, cows n chickuns. And not labeling said items. By Law.

smiler03's picture

@ Oleandor

You're yet another "Pharma" hating person who is clutching at anything for an excuse to blame somebody else.

You say just Google "antidepressants and weight gain"..

So I did "antidepressants and weight gain" 2,430,000,000 hits.

and "antidepressants and weight loss" 4,370,000,000 hits.

Keep making those excuses!


Gully Foyle's picture


Far more than hunger and depression they slow down the metabolic process forcing weight gain.

Blood pressure meds do something similar.

Big Corked Boots's picture

One of the side effects of Prozac is appetite reduction. It is sometimes perscribed, all other things being equal, to the depressed with this in mind.

Not fer nuttin, but with all the bad news in the world, who isn't depressed?

TBT or not TBT's picture

Sugar, and simple carbohydrates, are also antidepressants.    Go figure!      

ratso's picture

Who says the signs of growth are not all around you. 

midtowng's picture

this wouldn't be a problem if people cooked their food rather than ate out.

Sudden Debt's picture

Let's not get negative about everything Obama does :)

You guys get the drones in the skies, WE GET THE MONEY!!!


lolmao500's picture


RafterManFMJ's picture

Personally I'm eating 5K calories per day, a good bit supplied from beer, to pack on the pounds so I can draw upon my fat reserves when the economy crashes.  It also makes sense to bulk up now, when calories are cheaper, than buy more expensive food next year.  I'm hedging with jiggly fat.

My bug out bag is filled with HoHos and Sea Biscuits.

Gully Foyle's picture


Dude all those "lean" fucks will be weak as a starving African when the collapse comes. They have zero fat reserves to rely on and will burn muscle mass.

vast-dom's picture

QE directly causes obesity. Let this fat fuck-farm careen off the planet already.