The 10 least obese countries in the world are mostly from Asia and Africa. Changing food habits, improving medical care and awareness about one’s health have contributed towards the betterment of public health over the last century. However, obesity has also become a global epidemic even in (or especially in) developed countries, where sedentary lifestyles and sugar-laden food have led to bloated citizenry.
However, not every country has the “first-world” problems of having too much to eat, and some of the least obese countries in the world have achieved that not because of strict diets, but simply because they are poorer countries that can’t overindulge on food as easily. According to a Lancet study, the number of underweight persons worldwide increased to 462 million in 2014 from 330 million in 1975. A large proportion of those 462 million people live in some of the world’s poorest regions, especially in South Asia. Excessively low body weight is a serious public health issue in the least obese countries in the world. Being underweight also increases various health risks like anemia and osteoporosis.
The world is a highly unequal place with food shortages in poor nations and rising obesity in developed countries. If you’re interested in reading more about the obesity epidemic and where it’s being felt the most, check out our list of the 11 fattest countries in the world. Some developed countries are taking proactive measures to solve the challenges of modern society on weight. While the Japanese follow a healthy regime of food and exercise to remain fit, countries like Thailand have adopted an equitable medical scheme for the benefit of their society.
Income disparity remains a huge concern in developing nations like India, where children and females suffer from malnutrition, stunted growth and anemic conditions, leading to poor productivity. In many low-income countries, socioeconomic reasons like poverty, water, sanitation and education are important factors determining health and weight.
Many large pharma companies are interested in supplying medicine for cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure; ailments that affect rich countries that will potentially pay more for these drugs. In 2012, Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) stopped research and development into all anti-infective drugs which affected developing countries. Most of the multinational drug firms argue that it costs a lot to develop these drugs. But some drug companies have also pledged to help poor countries. For example, Novo Nordisk A/S (ADR) (NYSE:NVO) announced that it will provide insulin at sharply discounted prices to poor nations, while Eli Lilly and Co (NYSE:LLY) agreed to donate its technology and rights to make TB drugs in the past. Giant drug companies like Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline PLC (ADR) (NYSE:GSK) that have large presences in developing nations also stand to benefit from the high incidence of diseases related to malnutrition.
Over the next few pages we have listed the 10 least obese countries in the world. We have ranked the least obese countries based on their obesity rates according to Caloribee, which does not include countries with high rates of poverty or malnutrition, so the list isn’t skewed towards countries with little to eat. We have also listed the mean BMI of each country’s citizens by gender, as of 2014, using data compiled by the WHO. A person is said to be underweight when his or her body mass index (BMI) (a person’s weight in kilograms divided by their height in meters) is less than 18.5. A person with a BMI equal to or more than 25 is considered overweight, while 30 or more is considered obese.