Obesity is emerging as a worldwide health problem, not one confined solely to affluent, industrialized nations.

At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, scientists said that obesity is being seen for the first time in nations where food shortage has been a major threat, reported the London Times.

“Obesity has penetrated the remotest places on Earth,” said Stanley Ulijaszek of the University of Oxford, according to Salon.com.

He called the trend the “McDonaldization” of the global diet, referring to the spread of fast foods and sedentary lifestyles, according to the Times.

One scientist, Barry Popkin, said, “Until recently, these disorders have paled in comparison to the health challenges posed by famine and infectious disease to lower and middle-income countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America,” according to the Times.

Claiming more than 300,000 lives a year, obesity could surpass smoking as America’s No. 1 preventable health problem, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

It affects about 32 million American adults aged 25-74. Some 61 percent are overweight.

Globally, an estimated 300 million people are obese, compared to 800 million people who are underfed, said Salon.com.

“Nearly one in five people around the world is clinically obese, with the proportion increasing from 12 to 18 percent in seven years, according to World Health Organization figures presented to the conference,” the Times reported.

The London Guardian said anthropologist Marquisa LaVelle warned conference participants, “We are looking at a situation in which increased obesity and declining world health are inevitable.”

EthicsDaily.com’s research found that few American newspapers carried articles about the spread of obesity worldwide.

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