The Global Obesity Epidemic

For the past three decades, obesity has been a major health issue in America. However, over the past two decades, things have changed. Today, obesity is a global health problem and can be found in almost every country on the planet. Even Africa, a continent synonymous with famine and malnutrition, is now beginning to encounter obesity. Findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Data reveals that nearly 2 billion children and adults are overweight or obese. Nearly one third of the world’s population is walking around with excess weight. The driving factors behind the obesity epidemic are poor dietary choices, urbanization and a sedentary lifestyle.

Among the 195 countries surveyed, the US has the highest number of obese children and young adults at 13%, while Egypt leads in terms of adult obesity at 35%.

Obesity is not a benign disorder and a large number of adults are dying prematurely from health problems related to excess weight. Today, any individual who has a body mass index greater than 30 is considered obese. Healthcare experts say that individuals who disregard weight gain are at a greater risk for heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. There is now a great push to educate the public about the negative consequences of obesity, but so far this has not made any difference in complications.

Data obtained from the recent Global Burden of Disease study reveals that the rate of obesity has doubled since 1980 and continues to increase at a rapid rate in at least 73 countries.

Overall obesity levels are much higher in women than men across all ages. While there are less children with obesity compared to adults, these numbers have also steadily been increasing over the past 2 decades. Despite a much smaller population as compared to densely populated countries like India or China, the US has the highest number of obese individuals. The lowest rates of obesity are in Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Experts believe that affordability, food availability and the food environment are the major drivers. So far no one single intervention has been effective in the fight against obesity but experts say that the global consequences of obesity are even far reaching. We only have so much food and if people do not start to become active, governments will run of money because of the enormous health care expenses associated with diseases that are related to obesity.