Obesity is on the rise: more people now overweight than underweight in the world

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A new study from The Lancet reveals that obesity worldwide has risen from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in 2014.

Researchers analysed data from 1,698 population-based studies and surveys, with statistics taken from 19 million men and women ages 18 and above. That number represents 99% of the world’s population, giving us a clear indication of the changing state of health across a wide range of countries. High-income nations proved to have the highest rate of obesity – and it’s a problem that research suggests will continue to grow.

There are many misconceptions about obesity which can lead to mismanagement of the problem, and specifically, why a person should seek to achieve and maintain a healthy goal weight. It’s more than aesthetics; those who are diagnosed obese are also at higher risk for a number of cardiovascular issues including diabetes.

Interestingly enough, wealthier countries have witnessed the biggest increase in BMI with the United States the top of the list. BMI (or Body Mass Index) is a method of comparing a person’s height to weight ratio to ascertain whether they are at a healthy weight for their height. A ‘normal’ BMI rate is 18.5-24.9. Anything below or above that range is considered under or overweight. Based on this study the average BMI in the US is 28. More than 25% of the world’s severely obese men, and almost 20% of the world’s severely obese women live in the U.S.

On the other hand, low-income nations suffered from the highest number of underweight citizens with Ethiopia having the lowest BMI for men and Timor-Leste the lowest for women.

There are ways to combat this escalating epidemic according to one of the study’s authors. Majid Ezzatti, a professor from the School of Public Health in Imperial College London in the UK, says “To avoid an epidemic of severe obesity, new policies that can slow down and stop the worldwide increase in body weight must be implemented quickly and rigorously evaluated, including smart food policies and improved health care training.”

As Ezzatti says, obesity can be tackled now to prevent an epidemic – but what happens if we do nothing? Predictions indicate that by 2025, 1 in 5 adults worldwide and more than 40% of adults in the US will be obese.

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