Japan's lessons for combating obesity without Ozempic

Japan has one of the world's lowest obesity rates at just 4.5%, compared to 42% in the United States. Writing for Time, author Johann Hari set out to discover how the country has avoided the need for weight-loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy. He learned that the answer lies not in genetics, but in a unique food culture and societal approach to health. Japanese cuisine emphasizes simplicity, smaller portions, and drawing out the natural flavors of ingredients rather than relying on added fats and sauces. Schools employ nutritionists to design fresh, healthy meals and educate children about balanced eating from a young age.

As Hari observed in a Tokyo school:

"There were no overweight children. None. My translator and I walked from class to class, asking the kids what they most liked to eat. The first child I spoke to, a 10-year old girl, said: 'I like green vegetables, like broccoli.' One 11-year old-boy told me he loves rice because 'the rice has protein. If you eat balanced food every meal, then you have a very strong body,' and he flexed his tiny biceps, and giggled."

Japan's "Metabo Law" also requires annual waistline measurements for adults, with those exceeding certain thresholds referred to counseling. While such measures may seem intrusive to Western sensibilities, they have contributed to Japan's low obesity rate.

Previously: Watch: the economics of a Japanese ramen shop