20 days ago

How Nauru became the most obese country in the world

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Nauru, a tiny country in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that is often considered a part of the Oceania continent, does not constantly hit the headlines. However, the country consistently comes first in a global ranking, although not quite a pleasant one.

Nauru is regarded as the most obese country in the world, with a whopping 90 per cent of the population being overweight and an obesity rate of more than 90 per cent. Nauruans weigh about 100 kilograms on average, which is quite a lot compared to the rest of the world.

However, Nauruans were not always overweight, and the rampant obesity in the country is a phenomenon that has been prevalent ever since the 1970s, after the Independence of the Republic. 

Nauru, being a country situated just beside the sea, was traditionally reliant on marine fish, fruits, various vegetables, and coconuts, and the diet used to be balanced.

However, after becoming an independent country, the economy of Nauru started to boom rapidly due to an increase in mining activities. 

Being the third-smallest country in the world with a negligible population size, most of the citizens in the country have been involved in the same industry, which gradually decreased the size of the population involved in traditional activities like agriculture and fishing, and the country tended to become overly reliant on foreign imports when it comes to food, and the bulk of them were processed.

The Pacific Phosphate Company was involved in the mining industry of Nauru just before the First World War when the country was a part of the German Empire. 

However, after the end of the First World War, the country was jointly administered by the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, and the phosphate reserves of the country went to the British. The economy of Nauru was not stimulated at that time.

The country has been so dependent on processed food from the West that the anthropologist Amy McLennan from the University of Oxford, who visited the country and stayed there for eleven months, said that finding one vegetable in one week is a matter of luck. The people on the island do not even have access to clean drinking water and are reliant on imported drinking water.

Nauru is not unique in that aspect because some other micronations in the Pacific, such as Palau, Tuvalu, and Kiribati, face similar ramifications regarding obesity. 

The obesity rate in Nauru is a stark reminder for countries that trading off economic benefits for nature might not always result in good outcomes.

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