Okinawa’s obesity levels have risen since before its reversion to Japan, with the trend posing challenges to one of the highest life expectancy in the world, according to an article in Asahi Shimbun.

An Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) survey in 2011 showed obesity rates heading upwards in a span of 30 years. About 30% of the adult population in Mexico and United States are obese, while the figures doubled in Australia and New Zealand.

The surge was felt even in Japan , where simple diet and life expectancy of 84-90 years is virtually part of culture. The Okinawan crisis, as lifestyle-related diseases doctor Hideaki Tanaka calls it, casts a scene of swelling Body Mass Index (BMI), lifestyle-related diseases, and a shocking drop in life expectancy rate. Okinawa became a “testing ground” as reports predict the trend will soon be the same for other countries.

According to national surveys, Okinawa’s obesity levels topped the rankings with 45.2% of adult males considered overweight. BMI rose to 25 from the national average of 22.8. Life expectancy fell to 26th from 4th under the weight of lifestyle-related diseases, which accounts to 20% of deaths. The culprit, according to a study by associate professor Hidemi Todoriki at the University of the Ryukyus Graduate School, is the overall 20% increase in fat content, which sharply rose in the 1960s to 1970s, around the period of US occupation. The dilemma is exacerbated by economic problems and high medical costs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that obesity is also a grave challenge to low-income countries. The profusion of cheap, high-calorie food would trigger an increase of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases cases in the coming years. About 80% of 43 million “overweight” children live in developing nations and vulnerable to being overweight in adulthood, report says. Studies also indicate that overweight adults are more prone to heart diseases and colon cancer.

Countries have designed ways to curb obesity, such as Hungary’s “potato chips tax” on salty or sugary snack foods, New York’s ban on toy giveaways from fast-food restaurants, and prohibiting food establishments to sell high-calorie food near schools.

Obesity rates reflect the different lifestyles across the globe. Factors such as the lack of safe playing areas for children, use of transportation, and technological advancements designed to minimize work, all contribute to the trend.