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Over 1 Billion People Are Now Obese Worldwide
  • Posted March 1, 2024

Over 1 Billion People Are Now Obese Worldwide

FRIDAY, March 1, 2024 (HealthDay news) -- More than 1 billion adults and children around the world are now obese, a new global analysis estimates.

Nearly 880 million adults now are living with obesity, as well as 159 million children, according to the report published Feb. 29 in The Lancet journal.

Obesity rates for kids and teenagers quadrupled worldwide between 1990 and 2022, rising from 1.7% to 6.9% for girls and 2.1% to 9.3% for boys.

Meanwhile, adult obesity rates more than doubled during the same period, researchers found. Obesity increased more than twofold in women (8.8% to 18.5%) and nearly tripled in men (4.8% to 14%).

"It is very concerning that the epidemic of obesity that was evident among adults in much of the world in 1990 is now mirrored in school-aged children and adolescents,"said senior study author Majid Ezzatti, chair of global environmental health at Imperial College London.

These figures outstrip predictions made by the World Obesity Federation, which had predicted that 1 billion people globally would be living with obesity by 2030 in its World Obesity Atlas 2022.

Essentially, the globe had already surpassed that mark by the time of the atlas' publication, according to the new study.

Obesity is now the most common form of malnutrition in most countries, researchers said.

That's because the proportion of adults who are underweight declined by more than half between 1990 and 2022, and by one-fifth in girls and more than one-third in boys.

More than 1,500 researchers contributed to the study, which looked at body mass index for more than 220 million people representing more than 190 countries.

In the United States, the obesity rate increased from 11.6% to 19.4% between 1990 and 2022 for girls and from 11.5% to 21.7% for boys.

About 44% of American women and 42% of American men are now obese, up from 21% and 17% two decades earlier, researchers report.

In fact, U.S. men experienced the world's third-greatest increase in obesity rates during those two decades, just behind Romania and Qatar, results show.

The United States rates 10th highest in the world for obesity in men, results show. The nation also ranks 36th in obesity among women, 22nd in obesity among girls and 26th in obesity among boys.

The island nations of Tonga and American Samoa have the highest obesity rates in the world for women, while it is American Samoa and Nauru for men. In Polynesia and Micronesia, more than 60% of the adult population is living with obesity.

There are many forces driving obesity around the world, according to the World Obesity Foundation. These include genetics, biology, access to health care and increased availability of calorie-dense foods that lack essential nutrients.

Researchers worry that major global issues will worsen both obesity and underweight.

"The impact of issues such as climate change, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine risk worsening both rates of obesity and underweight, by increasing poverty and the cost of nutrient-rich foods,"researcher Guha Pradeepa, from the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, said in a journal news release.

These events have contributed to "insufficient food in some countries and households, and shifts to less healthy foods in others,"Pradeepa said. "To create a healthier world, we need comprehensive policies to address these challenges."

"This new study highlights the importance of preventing and managing obesity from early life to adulthood, through diet, physical activity and adequate care, as needed,"said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"Getting back on track to meet the global targets for curbing obesity will take the work of governments and communities, supported by evidence-based policies from WHO and national public health agencies,"Ghebreyesus added. "Importantly, it requires the cooperation of the private sector, which must be accountable for the health impacts of their products." 

More information

The World Obesity Foundation has more about global obesity.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, Feb. 29, 2024

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