New Reports Recognize Growing Rates of Obesity Worldwide

Global, regional and national obesity has climbed at a startling rate over the past three decades, according to a new analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, published May 28 in The Lancet. In just 33 years, the rate of obesity worldwide in adults and children has risen 28 and 47 percent respectively, with the number of overweight individuals growing from 857 million in 1980 to 2.1 billion in 2013.

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Led by Professor Emmanuela Gakidou from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, alongside a team of international researchers, the report gathered available data from numerous surveys, research, and scientific literature to monitor trends in the prevalence of overweight (body mass index (BMI) of 25kg/m2 or higher) and obese (BMI of 30kg/m2 or higher) individuals in 188 countries in all 21 regions of the world from 1980 to 2013.

According to the report's findings, more than half of the world's 671 million obese individuals live in just ten countries: the U.S. (13 percent), China and India (15 percent), as well as Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan and Indonesia. In high-income countries, some of the highest increases in adult obesity have occurred in the U.S. (with roughly a third of the population suffering from obesity), Australia (28 percent of men and 30 percent of women), and the UK (with a quarter of the adult population suffering from obesity).

In the developed world, men have been found to have a higher rate of obesity than women, while in developing countries, women have a higher rate than men. As of 2013, 62 percent of the world's obese population live in developing countries. The prevalence of overweight and obesity in childhood has also increased dramatically in developed countries, from 17 percent in 1980 to 24 percent in 2013 in boys and from 16 percent to 23 percent in girls. Likewise in developing countries, rates have grown from approximately eight percent to 13 percent in both boys and girls over the past three decades.

"Unlike other major global health risks, such as tobacco and childhood nutrition, obesity is not decreasing worldwide," says Gakidou. "Our findings show that increases in the prevalence of obesity have been substantial, widespread, and have arisen over a short time."

Based on these alarming statistics and many others, Gakidou adds, "Our analysis suggests that the United Nations' target to stop the rise in obesity by 2025 is very ambitious and is unlikely to be achieved without concerted action and further research to assess the effect of population-wide interventions, and how to effectively translate that knowledge into national obesity control programs. In particular, urgent global leadership is needed to help low-and middle-income countries intervene to reduce excessive calorie intake, physical inactivity, and active promotion of food consumption by industry."

Meanwhile, a separate study presented May 28 at the European Congress on Obesity looked at results of a survey conducted by the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) and C3 Collaborating for Health, which found that while government officials and policymakers in 11 surveyed countries have a good understanding of the obesity and overweight issues, they need to be more aware of the extent of these issues in their countries, with a better appreciation of the impact of functional response tactics.

The survey was sent to government officials and policymakers in England, Spain, the U.S., Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, and Mexico, and assessed their attitudes towards and knowledge of obesity issues, effectively gauging their ability to face the economic and health care consequences of obesity through better prevention and management.

"This survey has given us an important insight into the thinking of policymakers on key issues around obesity," says Euan Woodward, executive director of EASO. "It will help us to tailor our advocacy more effectively, and ultimately influence policy in this critical area."

Clinical Topics: Diabetes and Cardiometabolic Disease, Prevention, Diet

Keywords: Attitude, Global Health, Overweight, Pediatric Obesity, Developing Countries, Government, Prevalence, Body Mass Index, Tobacco, Developed Countries, Obesity, Diet, United Nations

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