Advertisement

One in 10 people across the globe – 107.7 million children and 603.7 million adults – are considered obese, according to a new systematic study published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week.

And the associated burdens of health problems and premature deaths parallel the rising obesity rates.

The study is the most comprehensive research that has been done on the subject thus far. Researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Seattle, along with members from the Global Burden of Disease Program, conducted the evaluation.

The team examined “overweight” and “obesity” trends in 195 countries over the last three decades by analyzing data from a collection of previous sources and studies.

The definition of obese, according to the study, correlated with a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30 for adults, while a BMI of 25 to 29 was classified as overweight.

To determine rates of childhood obesity, the researchers referenced the International Obesity Task Force’s classifications.

The researchers found that in 70 countries (U.S. included) obesity rates doubled from 1980 to 2015.

The U.S. now also tops the charts for the world’s highest rate of childhood obesity at 12 percent.

Egypt had the highest level of adult obesity, at about 35 percent. The lowest rates among adults was reported in Vietnam, at just about 1.5 percent.

Women tend to have higher rates of obesity than men across all ages. The peak in the prevalence of obesity was observed between the ages of 60 and 64 years among women and between 50 and 54 years among men, the study states.

If these statistics alone weren’t startling enough, the study also found that excess weight accounted for approximately 4 million deaths around the world in 2015 alone – an increase of 28 percent since 1990.

The majority of premature deaths reported in the study were from cardiovascular disease, followed by diabetes.

High BMI also accounted for 28.6 million years lived with, which accounted for 3.6 percent of years lived with disability due to any cause globally.

Previous research has indicated a relationship between a lower risk of death and being overweight, but not obese. But the New England Journal of Medicine study provides evidence conflicting this finding.

The authors found that 39 percent of the 4 million deaths in 2015 were individuals in the “overweight” BMI range. Thirty-seven percent of the disability-adjusted life-years that were related to high BMI occurred in individuals with a BMI of less than 30.

The lowest overall risk of death was observed for a BMI of 20 to 25, according to the authors.

The authors also note that the prevalence of obesity has increased across varying levels of development in recent decades, demonstrating that the issue of high BMI and obesity is not just affecting wealthier nations.

They also address the various types of interventions and programs that have been implemented among numerous nations in an attempt to reduce obesity – such as restricting advertisements of unhealthy foods to children, providing more nutritious school meals and implementing taxes on sodas and sugary snacks. But according to the authors, no major population success has yet been shown.

“The reduced opportunities for physical activity that have followed urbanization and other changes in the built environment have also been considered as potential drivers; however, these changes generally preceded the global increase in obesity and are less likely to be major contributors,” conclude the authors.

Advertisement
Advertisement