World’s obese population hits 640 million

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More than one in ten men and one in seven women across the globe are now obese, according to the world’s biggest obesity study.

Dr Lynne Boddy, from LJMU’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, contributed to the research study which was led by scientists from Imperial College London and involved the World Health Organization, as well as over 700 researchers across the globe. It incorporated measurements of the weight and height of nearly 20 million adults in most of the world’s countries. The research team also created interactive maps and other visuals showing the data for each country, and how they compare to each other.

The study, published in the journal The Lancet, calculated and compared BMI among adult men and women from 1975 to 2014. BMI is a measure of a person’s weight for their height, and indicates whether their weight is healthy.

The data revealed that in four decades global obesity among men has tripled - from 3.2% in 1975 to 10.8%. Obesity among women meanwhile has more than doubled, from 6.4 % in 1975 to 14.9% in 2014.

This translates as 266 million obese men and 375 million obese women in the world in 2014. It also means the world’s population has become heavier by around 1.5kg in each subsequent decade since 1975.

In addition, 2.3% of the world’s men, and 5% of the world’s women are now classed as severely obese, which is defined as having a BMI of over 35 kg/m2. This places an individual at significantly increased risk of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Analysis of the findings showed more obese men and women now live in China and the USA than in any other country. However the USA still has the highest number of severely obese men and women in the world.

The team predicted if these global trends continue, by 2025 18% of the world’s men and 21% of women will be obese. Furthermore, the probability of reaching the World Health Organization global obesity target (which aims for no rise in obesity above 2010 levels by 2025) will be close to zero.

LJMU’s Dr Boddy commented: “This study highlights the epidemic of obesity that has emerged over the last 40 years. Hopefully, the issues raised by the work of the collaborative group will lead to meaningful changes in governmental policy to promote healthy eating, physical activity and lifestyle changes to address this global public health issue.”

The research received widespread coverage including with the BBC, Daily Mail and Reuters online.

To read the full paper, go to The Lancet website.


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