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Obesity worldwide

Pandemic: 1 in 3 overweight and over 1 billion obese

1.46 billion adults are obese
904 million people in developing countries alone, are now classed as overweight or above
Under-nourishment is still recognised to be a problem for hundreds of millions of people in the developing world

One in three people worldwide is overweight and the number of obese adults is approximately 1.46 billion, according to a report from the UK’s Overseas Development Institute

The ‘Future Diets’ report claims some of the rise is due to changes in eating patterns for cereals and grains to the consumption of more fats, sugar, oils and animal products. A total of 904 million people in developing countries alone, are now classed as overweight or above, an increase of 250 million since 1980 (Figure 1).

Explosion in the number of overweight and obese adults from 1980-2008

In a sad reflection of poverty that still exists, under-nourishment is still recognised to be a problem for hundreds of millions of people in the developing world, particularly children.

The researcher looked at changing overweight and obesity rates across the regions of the world and by individual country. The regions of North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America had large increases in overweight and obesity rates of approximately 58%. At the same time, North America still boasts highest percentage of overweight adults at 70%.

South east Asia has witnessed the most marked increase in overweight people from 7% to 22%.

"People with higher incomes have the ability to choose the kind of foods they want,” said study author, Steve Wiggins. “Changes in lifestyle, the increasing availability of processed foods, advertising, media influences have all led to dietary changes.”

He said this was particularly the case in emerging economies, such as India and China, where a large middle class of people with rising incomes are living in urban centres and not taking much physical exercise.

At the same time consumption of fat, salt and sugar has increased globally according to the United Nations. The world's top sugar consumers include the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and Mexico.

“Current action on diet may be hesitant and timid, but that does not mean that governments should always be so cautious: the public-health case for influencing diet is strong in high-income countries,” the report states.

The report was financially supported by the UK Department for International Development. 

To access the report please click here

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