The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published a study that reveals that Argentina has eradicated national hunger, but it also ranks as the third highest Latin American country in obesity. The report highlights the lower rates of hunger across Latin American and the dramatic rise of obesity in South America. In Argentina, the obesity rate is 29.4 percent, lagging behind the slightly more obese nations Venezuela (30.8 percent obesity rate) and, the heaviest, Mexico (32.8 percent obesity rate). This development comes as a shock because the rapid rise of obesity in the United States (31.8 percent obesity rate) over the last 25 years would have presumably kept it in crowning position as the most obese high-populous nation, but the U.S. has still been defeated by Mexico, which is now the "fattest" of the more populous nations.

Nauru, a tiny island in the South Pacific, still maintains top-rank as the world's heaviest nation with an adult obesity rate of an outstanding 71.1 percent. But, of nations with more residents, Latin American countries have raced up the list, standing shapely hip-to-hip with America, a nation of excess -- always thought to be painfully gluttonous.

"Obesity affects 23 percent of adults and 7 percent of children in Argentina. Infant obesity has grown by 9.9 percent in the country in the last 20 years. In Latin America as a whole, a total of 3.8m children under five years of age are obese," the FAO report indicated.

"American-sized" portions and junk food have helped to make Latin America sluggish, and encouraged them away from traditional fresh foods. The influx of obesity in Mexico doesn't surprise many as Mexicans move into urban areas that are wealthier, gaining access to more fast food choices and shedding the desire to exercise. And, poor individuals are at greater risk of becoming obese; as they lack access to fresh foods, they tend to over-eat when consuming, and busy work lives dull a desire to participate in physical fitness -- affecting 10 million Mexicans (one-sixth of the population). Malnutrition and obesity are bedfellows in America and abroad, which results in the development of serious health concerns such as diabetes and heart attacks, and also high costs for society.

"The social cost of malnutrition, measured by the 'disability-adjusted life years' lost to child and maternal malnutrition and to overweight and obesity, are very high. Beyond the social cost, the cost to the global economy caused by malnutrition, as a result of lost productivity and direct health care costs, could account for as much as 5 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), equivalent to US$3.5 trillion per year or US$500 per person. The costs of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are estimated at 2-3 percent of global GDP, equivalent to US$1.4-2.1 trillion per year."

Investing in the reduction of "micronutrient deficiencies" now could save a great sum later. The results would be better health, a reduction in child deaths, increased future earnings, and benefit-to-cost ratio of almost 13 to 1. Steps to improve nutrition and to deter obesity include: increasing clean water, sanitation and health care; increase access to diverse, sustainable nutrient-dense foods; revamp the agriculture system that has weakened due to urbanization; and also access to leisure, employment, work, transportation, nutritional education and well-equipped supermarkets.