Home Lancet: Global obesity epidemic reaches one billion

Lancet: Global obesity epidemic reaches one billion

lancet global obesity epidemic reaches one billion

PARIS, FRANCE — A study published in the Lancet medical journal reveals a staggering increase in global obesity, surpassing one billion people worldwide, marking a fourfold surge since 1990. 

The epidemic is particularly affecting poorer countries, and the rate is escalating more rapidly among children and adolescents compared to adults, according to a study conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Released ahead of World Obesity Day on March 4, the study estimates that in 1990, there were approximately 226 million obese adults, adolescents, and children globally. 

By 2022, this number had surged to a staggering 1,038 million.

Francesco Branca, the director of nutrition for health at the WHO, expressed surprise at the earlier-than-anticipated rise past the one-billion mark. 

While the medical community was aware of the rapidly increasing numbers, the symbolic figure of one billion was expected around 2030.

Researchers conducted a comprehensive analysis of weight and height measurements for over 220 million individuals in more than 190 countries to derive these estimates. 

The study reported that in 2022, an estimated 504 million adult women and 374 million men were obese, marking a near-tripling of the obesity rate for men (14 percent) and more than doubling for women (18.5 percent) since 1990.

The study also revealed that 159 million children and adolescents were living with obesity in 2022, a significant increase from around 31 million in 1990.

Obesity is a complex and chronic condition associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and increased mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Countries in Polynesia and Micronesia, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North Africa have experienced more severe impacts from the rise in obesity, with higher rates than many high-income industrialized countries in Europe.

Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London, the study’s lead author, observed signs that obesity might be leveling out in some southern European countries like France and Spain, especially among women. 

However, the majority of countries now have more people suffering from obesity than being underweight, a condition that has seen a decline since 1990.

The study underscores the importance of preventive measures from early life to adulthood, including diet, physical activity, and appropriate care. 

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasized the need for private sector cooperation and accountability for the health impacts of their products to meet global targets for reducing obesity rates. 

The WHO has supported measures such as taxes on sugary drinks, restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, and increased subsidies for healthy foods to address the global obesity challenge. 

Experts also note that new treatments for diabetes can play a role in combating obesity but are not the sole solution to the long-term issue.

Source: (1), (2), (3)

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