Obesity a growing worldwide epidemicNews added by Benefits Pro on May 30, 2014

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By Kathryn Mayer

Well, at least we can say it’s not just an American thing.

A new study describes obesity’s growing global epidemic, revealing that 2.1 billion people — about 29 percent of the world’s population — were either overweight or obese in 2013.

And according to researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, nearly two out of three of the obese live in developing countries.

See also: Obesity rate reaches new high

It’s a huge study with huge implications: Researchers analyzed data from 188 countries showcasing the “substantial and widespread” rise in global obesity rates that presents a “major public health epidemic” in both developed and developing countries. Furthermore, it shows that no country has been able to stem the rising obesity rates over the past three decades.

The study’s findings was published Thursday in the Lancet medical journal.

In 2013, 37 percent of adult men and 38 percent of adult women were considered obese or overweight. In 1980, those percentages were 29 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

“Obesity is an issue affecting people of all ages and incomes, everywhere,” said Christopher Murray, director of IHME and a co-founder of the Global Burden of Disease study. “In the last three decades, not one country has achieved success in reducing obesity rates, and we expect obesity to rise steadily as incomes rise in low- and middle-income countries in particular, unless urgent steps are taken to address this public health crisis.”
Indeed, the United States — whose epidemic has been well-documented — is the world’s heaviest country, representing 13 percent of the world’s obese population, according to the study.

Just last week, Gallup reported the obesity rate among U.S. adults is the highest ever — now sitting at 27.7 percent.

More than 50 percent of the world’s 671 million obese live in 10 countries, according to the report: the U.S., China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan and Indonesia.

Regionally, countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Central America, and Island nations in the Pacific and Caribbean have already reached exceptionally high rates of overweight and obesity — 44 percent or higher.

But even more concerning, researchers said, is the fact that obesity has increased substantially worldwide among children and adolescents. Between 1980 and 2013, the prevalence of overweight or obese children and adolescents increased by nearly 50 percent.

In 2013, about 22 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys living in developed countries were overweight or obese, and about 13 percent of boys and 13 percent of girls were overweight or obese in developing countries.

Particularly high rates of child and adolescent obesity were seen in Middle Eastern and North African countries, notably among girls.

Lead author Marie Ng, assistant professor of global health at IHME, said the rise in obesity among children is “especially troubling” in so many low- and middle-income countries. “We know that there are severe downstream health effects from childhood obesity, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many cancers. We need to be thinking now about how to turn this trend around.”

Overweight is defined as having a body mass index (BMI), or weight-to-height ratio, greater than or equal to 25 and lower than 30, while obesity is defined as having a BMI equal to or greater than 30.

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