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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Analysis Reveals Over 1 Billion People Globally are Living with Obesity

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ATLANTA — A recent analysis published in The Lancet reveals a shocking statistic:⁢ over 1 billion‍ individuals, spanning all age groups, are living with ⁢obesity worldwide. This makes obesity the most prevalent form of‍ malnutrition across numerous countries.

Dr. Majid Ezzati, the senior author of the study and a professor at Imperial College London,​ explained in a press conference that⁤ this alarming figure is largely due to the swift shift from underweight malnutrition to obesity in low-income and middle-income nations.

Earlier predictions by the World Obesity Federation had estimated that the global population ‍of individuals living with obesity would ⁢reach ‍1 billion by 2030. However, this figure ​was already surpassed in 2022, according to Ezzati.

“The speed at which this has occurred has truly taken us by surprise,” he commented.

The⁢ comprehensive global study, carried out by over‌ 1,500 researchers from the Non-Communicable Diseases Risk Factor Collaboration and the World Health Organization, analyzed the height and weight data of more than 220 million⁢ people across over 190 countries.

The study primarily focused‌ on​ the rates⁣ of underweight and obesity, both of which are ‌forms of malnutrition that can have serious health consequences. Adults with a body mass​ index (BMI)​ of 30 or above were classified as‍ obese, while those with a BMI below 18.5 were ⁤considered ⁢underweight. For children and adolescents, obesity or underweight status was determined based⁢ on age and sex criteria, as per the study.

“Undernutrition and ⁤obesity are essentially two sides of the same coin, both stemming⁢ from a lack of access to a‌ healthy diet,” stated Dr. Francesco Branca, director of the WHO ⁣Department of Nutrition and ⁢Food Safety, during the press conference.

The study estimates that nearly‌ 880 million adults and ‌159 million children were living with obesity in 2022. Obesity rates​ among⁣ children and adolescents worldwide have quadrupled from 1990 ‌to 2022, while adult obesity rates have more​ than doubled.

“It’s deeply worrying that ⁢the obesity epidemic, which was already evident among adults in many‍ parts of the world in 1990,‌ is now reflected in school-aged children and adolescents,” Ezzati said in a press release.

While obesity rates have risen, the number of people affected by underweight has decreased in most countries. Obesity rates are now higher than underweight rates in two-thirds of the world’s countries, according to the study.

‘Obesity is a global issue’

This transition has been most noticeable in low-income and middle-income ‍countries, especially in Polynesia and Micronesia, the Caribbean, and the Middle ‍East and​ North Africa. These countries now have higher obesity ‍rates than many affluent industrialized countries, as ⁤per the study.

In 2022, the island nations of Tonga, American Samoa, and Nauru had⁣ the highest prevalence of obesity, with over 60% of the adult population living ​with the condition, according to the study.

“In the past, obesity was viewed as‌ a problem of⁣ the wealthy. Now, it’s clear that obesity is‍ a global issue,” Branca stated.

Ezzati ⁢noted that the researchers were surprised to find that none ‍of​ the wealthy industrialized nations — except for the United States —​ were among ⁤the countries with the highest ⁣prevalence⁣ of obesity in 2022.⁢ This ⁢marked a significant shift from 2017, when a similar global obesity analysis by WHO found the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom in the top category for obesity prevalence.

“This shows that this transition is happening ‌very quickly. We cannot afford to⁣ wait until underweight is eradicated to address obesity,” Ezzati⁣ emphasized.

‘Dependence ⁢on behavioral change’

Branca attributed this rapid⁣ transition to obesity to the swift restructuring of global food systems, which has ⁣largely been unregulated by public policy.

“The reason why the epidemic has spread so rapidly is because policy action has not been decisive enough,” he explained. “There has been a reliance on behavior change, but the solutions⁤ have‌ not⁤ addressed the structural element, which is the policies around food and environment.”

He stressed⁣ that obesity and underweight often coexist in many countries and must be tackled simultaneously through “double duty” policy interventions that address both forms⁣ of malnutrition.

Such policies ⁣include promoting ‌and supporting breastfeeding, taxing sweetened beverages, regulating food marketing​ that targets children, and providing nutritious food in public institutions like schools, according to Branca. He added that agricultural reform, urban design, and investment in primary health⁣ care can further support⁢ these policies.

“Reversing the trend and meeting⁣ the global targets for curbing obesity will require the collective⁢ efforts of governments and communities, ⁢backed by evidence-based policies from⁢ WHO and national public health agencies,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom‌ Ghebreyesus, the⁤ WHO director-general, in a press release. “Crucially, it also requires the cooperation​ of the private sector,​ which must be ⁢held accountable for the health impacts of their products.”

‘Community interventions’

Branca emphasized that public policy should aim to enhance monitoring of food manufacturers and ensure equitable access to‌ healthy, nutritious food for all. Over 3 billion ⁣people worldwide still cannot afford a ⁤healthy diet, he noted.

“One of the roles of policy is to ensure good health for people before they become wealthy,” Ezzati added.

The experts also highlighted policy changes around the world that have yielded promising results. For instance, France, which saw a plateau in its obesity rates‍ in the study, has implemented a ⁣national plan called Programme National Nutrition Santé that ⁢sets objectives for nutritional policy at the industry, consumer, and research levels.

Several South American countries have started implementing front-of-package nutritional labeling that includes clear warnings about fat, sugar, and salt levels. Mexico has⁤ led the way in taxing sweetened beverages, and in​ Chile, processed foods cannot be marketed to children, according to Branca.

“Community interventions that promote a healthy diet and physical ⁢activity have proven to be particularly effective,” he ​concluded.

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Truth Media Network
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