Study: Obesity Affects Over One Billion Individuals Globally

According to a study published by the Lancet medical journal, the number of individuals grappling with obesity worldwide has soared to over one billion, representing a fourfold surge since 1990.

The study conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organization underscores that the obesity “epidemic” is disproportionately impacting lower-income nations, with children and adolescents experiencing a faster growth rate compared to adults.

Released just ahead of World Obesity Day on March 4, the study projected that the global population of obese adults, adolescents, and children stood at approximately 226 million in 1990. Fast forward to 2022, that figure has ballooned to a staggering 1,038 million.

Francesco Branca, the WHO’s director of nutrition for health, expressed surprise at the rapidity with which the global obesity count surpassed one billion people, noting that it occurred “much earlier than we have anticipated.”

Although doctors were aware of the rapid increase in obesity rates, the symbolic milestone of surpassing one billion people had been projected to occur in 2030.

According to findings published in The Lancet, researchers delved into weight and height metrics from over 220 million individuals in 190 countries to formulate their estimates.

According to the study’s findings, it was estimated that in 2022, there were about 504 million obese adult women and 374 million obese men. Moreover, the research highlighted a significant increase in obesity rates for both genders since 1990, with men nearly tripling (14 percent) and women more than doubling (18.5 percent).

It was revealed by the study that in 2022, some 159 million children and adolescents were afflicted by obesity, a notable escalation from approximately 31 million in 1990.

Read also: Obesity: Ban Snacking On Public Transport – UK Doctor

Alongside a heightened risk of death from heart disease, diabetes, and select cancers, this chronic and multifaceted ailment also amplifies vulnerability to mortality during the coronavirus pandemic for those who are overweight.

The rise has disproportionately affected countries in Polynesia, Micronesia, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North Africa.

“These countries now have higher obesity rates than many high-income industrialised countries, especially those in Europe,” the study said.

“In the past we have tended to think of obesity as a problem of the rich, now a problem of the world,” said Branca, who highlighted the fast lifestyle changes in low and middle-income countries.

Obesity Linked To Poor Eating Choices

In the findings presented by Majid Ezzati, who led the study at Imperial College London, indications emerged that obesity rates could be reaching a plateau in regions like France and Spain, particularly among women.

However, he emphasized that in the majority of countries, the prevalence of obesity surpasses that of underweight individuals, a trend noted to have declined since 1990, as per the study’s findings.

The study clarifies that inadequate food intake is the primary cause of being underweight, while poor dietary habits are identified as a key factor in the development of obesity.

“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 WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

He added that “getting back on track” to meet global targets for cutting obesity rates “requires the cooperation of the private sector, which must be accountable for the health impacts of their products”.

In its efforts to address global health challenges, the WHO has advocated for strategies such as imposing taxes on sugary beverages, limiting the promotion of unhealthy foods to children, and enhancing subsidies for healthier food choices.

Experts suggest that advancements in diabetes treatments could double as strategies in the fight against obesity. Branca stressed that while the new drugs offer promise, they should be viewed as part of a larger toolkit rather than a standalone solution to the problem.

He added that obesity is a long-term issue and emphasized the importance of examining the impact of those drugs on long-term effects or side effects.

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