April 12, 2024
Global Obesity Crisis: Number of Affected People Crosses One Billion, Study Finds

Global Obesity Crisis: Number of Affected People Crosses One Billion, Study Finds

The Lancet medical journal recently published a study revealing that the global obesity epidemic has reached a staggering milestone, with more than one billion people suffering from obesity worldwide. The study, conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organization, disclosed that the number of individuals afflicted by obesity has more than quadrupled since 1990.

According to the study, the rise in obesity is particularly prevalent in low-income countries, and the rate of obesity among children and adolescents is increasing at a faster pace compared to adults. In 1990, there were approximately 226 million obese adults, adolescents, and children globally. This figure has surged to 1,038 million in 2022.

Francesco Branca, the WHO’s director of nutrition for health, expressed surprise at the rapid escalation of obesity cases, surpassing earlier projections that estimated the one billion mark would be reached by 2030. The research, which analyzed height and weight measurements of over 220 million individuals across 190 countries, highlighted that in 2022, there were around 504 million obese adult women and 374 million men. The obesity rate among men had nearly tripled, reaching 14%, while in women, it had more than doubled, reaching 18.5% since 1990.

The study also noted an alarming increase in obesity among children and adolescents, with approximately 159 million affected in 2022, compared to around 31 million in 1990. Obesity is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and increased mortality rates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Countries in Polynesia, Micronesia, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North Africa have been disproportionately affected by the obesity surge, surpassing high-income industrialized nations in Europe. Branca underscored the global nature of the obesity crisis, emphasizing the rapid lifestyle changes in low and middle-income countries as a significant contributing factor.

Majid Ezzati from Imperial College London, the study’s lead author, revealed that certain countries like France and Spain in southern Europe are showing signs of a plateau in obesity rates, particularly among women. However, the study pointed out that in most regions, the prevalence of obesity now surpasses that of underweight individuals, which has declined since 1990.

The WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stressed the critical need for preventive measures and management of obesity from childhood to adulthood, through proper diet, physical activity, and necessary healthcare interventions. Ghebreyesus called for collaboration with the private sector to align with global targets in reducing obesity rates and advocated for measures such as taxes on sugary drinks, restrictions on marketing unhealthy foods to children, and subsidies for nutritious foods.

While acknowledging the potential of new treatments for diseases like diabetes to address obesity, Branca cautioned that these drugs are not a standalone solution to the complex issue. He emphasized the necessity of evaluating the long-term effects and potential side effects of these treatments in combating obesity effectively.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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