After putting the world on a scale, researchers found that North America accounts for a large share of the extra mass carried by overweight and obese people.
The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, estimated the weight of all people on the planet as 316 million tons, based on World Health Organization data from 2005.
Globally, overweight people carried 16 million tons of extra weight, and obese people an extra 3.8 million tons, equivalent to a combined 298 million average-weight people.
The increasing weight of the world has the potential to drastically impact global resources. Overweight and obese people consume more food, use more gasoline to drive, and require additional medical services due to obesity-related diseases.
Not all regions are weighted equal, though. North America, which makes up only six percent of the world’s population, accounts for 34 percent of the extra weight due to obesity.
Asia adds 13 percent to the weight of the world due to obesity, even though it has 61 percent of the global population. Japan stands out in this region, with both a high standard of living and a low average body mass index.
Researchers calculated that if people in all countries were similar in size to Americans, it would be the same as adding the weight of an extra billion average-sized people, with the energy needs of 473 million adults.
“When people think about environmental sustainability, they immediately focus on population. Actually, when it comes down to it – it’s not how many mouths there are to feed, it’s how much flesh there is on the planet,” study author Ian Roberts told BBC News.