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One-third of world now overweight, with US leading the way

June 12,2017 21:12

Danaei believes that while the epidemic may have plateaued in terms of growth among certain adult populations, such as the US population, the greater rate of change among children means there will be a future cohort of people who have been exposed to a ...


About 2.2 billion people worldwide are estimated to be overweight—about a third of the planet’s population—and around 712 million—about 10 percent—are obese. That’s according to one of the most comprehensive analyses on the subject, published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
A large international collaboration of researchers, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, used thousands of data sources to show how obesity swept across the globe between 1980 and 2015. In that time, obesity doubled in 73 countries and steadily rose in most others. While adults took the lion’s share of obesity numbers, children alarmingly had the fastest rates of obesity increases in many countries.
Overall, excess weight caused four million deaths worldwide in 2015, nearly 40 percent of which were in people who were overweight but not obese. For the study, overweight was defined as a body-mass-index between 25 to 29, while obesity was marked by BMIs at or above 30.
Though the study did not dive into drivers of global trends, the researchers speculate that the growing availability of cheap, high-energy foods (junk foods) is playing the largest role. The authors recommend countries try to throttle junk food advertisements to kids, tax consumption of those foods, improve standards of school lunches, and create incentives to boost the overall nutritional quality of food.
Worldwide, 108 million children and 604 million adults were obese in 2015. Among the 20 most populous countries, Egypt had the highest prevalence level of adult obesity (35 percent) and the US had the highest rate of childhood obesity (12.7 percent). Vietnam had the lowest adult obesity level (1.6 percent) and Bangladesh had the lowest level among children (1.2 percent).
In terms of overall numbers, however, China and India had the highest number of obese children at 15.3 million and 14.4 million, respectively. The US and China had the most obese adults, clocking in with 79.4 million and 57.3 million, respectively. But areas of Africa, Latin America, and China saw some the largest jumps in prevalence.
The largest weight-related killers were cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney diseases, cancers, and musculoskeletal disorders.
“Excess body weight is one of the most challenging public health problems of our time, affecting nearly one in every three people,” Ashkan Afshin, the study’s lead author, said in press statement. In the coming years, scientists will continue to monitor the trends, and “we will share data and findings with scientists, policymakers, and other stakeholders seeking evidence-based strategies to address this problem.”
NEJM, 2017. DOI:10.1056/NEJMoa1505409  (About DOIs).

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