Obesity Is Rising At Alarming Rates Around The World

It’s officially a global issue.

Global obesity rates have risen dramatically over the last 30 years, with 10 percent of the world’s population meeting the criteria for obesity today, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The massive study, which analyzed obesity rates of 195 countries from 1980 to 2015, was conducted by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. The researchers defined obesity as having a body mass index of 30 or higher, and they measured the rise of obesity in two ways, according to the New York Times: they looked at countries with the biggest jumps in percentage points and countries with the fastest rising rates. Here are six major takeaways of what they found.

  1. Nearly 604 million adults and 108 million children around the world meet the criteria for obesity.
  2. The U.S. had the largest jump in percentage points in the last 30 years, rising from 16 percent to 26.5 percent of the total population.
  3. Three African countries — Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau — had the fastest growing obesity rates in the world, with Burkina Faso at the top of the list. In 1980, one third of a percent of the country’s population met the criteria for obesity. In 2015, that number was just below seven percent.
  4. Child obesity rates are rising faster than those of adults in many countries.
  5. Chronic diseases caused by excess weight, including heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes, played a role in four million deaths worldwide in 2015. Forty percent of those deaths occurred in people who were overweight, but didn’t qualify as obese.
  6. Fewer obese people are dying in developed countries thanks to the availability of medications that address obesity-related health issues, like hypertension.

The research didn’t explore the causes of obesity, but according to the New York Times, the study authors noted that nutrient-poor packaged food plays a significantly greater role than lack of physical activity.

“We have more processed food, more energy-dense food, more intense marketing of food products, and these products are more available and more accessible,” Dr. Ashkan Afsin, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation told the New York Times. “The food environment seems to be the main driver of obesity.”

Read the full New York Times article here.