A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation suggests that worldwide, 2.2 billion adults and children suffer from health problems related to being overweight or obese. In addition, about 30% of the world’s population is affected by weight problems, with 10% listed as obese.

The researchers analyzed data from 68.5 million persons to assess the trends in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adults between 1980 and 2015. Using the Global Burden of Disease study data and methods, they also quantified the burden of disease related to high body-mass index (BMI), according to age, sex, cause, and BMI in 195 countries between 1990 and 2015.

In 2015, a total of 107.7 million children and 603.7 million adults were obese. Since 1980, the prevalence of obesity has doubled in more than 70 countries and has continuously increased in most other countries. Although the prevalence of obesity among children has been lower than that among adults, the rate of increase in childhood obesity in many countries has been greater than the rate of increase in adult obesity. High BMI accounted for 4.0 million deaths globally, nearly 40% of which occurred in persons who were not obese. More than two thirds of deaths related to high BMI were due to cardiovascular disease. The disease burden related to high BMI has increased since 1990; however, the rate of this increase has been attenuated owing to decreases in underlying rates of death from cardiovascular disease.

Among the 20 most-populous countries, the highest level of obesity among children and young adults was in the United States, at nearly 13%. Egypt topped the list for adult obesity at about 35%, while the lowest rates were in Bangladesh and Vietnam, respectively, at 1%. The United States, with 79.4 million, had the most obese adults, followed by China.

“The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study that is now reported in the Journal offers a discouraging reminder that the global obesity epidemic is worsening in most parts of the world and that its implications regarding both physical health and economic health remain ominous,” wrote Edward Gregg, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Jonathan Shaw, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, in an accompanying editorial. The research found obesity has tripled in youth and young adults in countries such as China, Brazil, and Indonesia. That was “the most worrisome finding” in the study, according to Gregg and Shaw. That suggests future increases in diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, and other health problems in much of the world.



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