Obesity is not just an American epidemic. Around the world, health experts are warning about skyrocketing rates. Surprisingly, some of the highest rates are now being seen in the developing world as new research shows that the number of overweight and obese people in the developing world far outnumbers those in richer countries.

According to a new report from the Overseas Development Institute in London, the number of people who are overweight and obese in the developing world has tripled over the last three decades. Worldwide, one-third of adults are now overweight compared with fewer than 23 percent in 1980.  

Why the increase? Health experts blame globalization, making processed and sugary foods like potato chips, cookies and donuts more readily available around the world. These foods — if they could be found at all — were once a rare treat, but they have now become a regular staple in the global diet. And those foods are taking their toll on health systems around the world.

Obesity rates for Mexican women have risen from 40 percent in 1980 to 70 percent in 2008.  n some Pacific Island nations, more than 90 percent of men are now considered overweight, while the Middle East is also seeing much higher rates of obesity among both children and adults.  

Higher rates of obesity also bring higher rates of related health issues such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

The authors of the report recommend public health campaigns around the world that urge people to choose fruits and vegetables over processed snacks. But that message may not go over so well in countries where citizens finally have enough disposable income to make choices about the foods they eat — even if that means the choices they are making aren't the healthiest in the long run.

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Obesity on the rise in the developing world
The number of overweight and obese people has tripled in developing nations over the past 30 years, according to a new worldwide study.