The obesity epidemic is global: 2.1 billion people, or about 29% of the world’s population, were either overweight or obese in 2013, and nearly two out of three of the obese live in developing countries, according to a study released Thursday.
The prevalence of overweight and obesity rose by 27.5% for adults and 47.1% for children between 1980 and 2013, according to the study, led by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and published Thursday in the journal the Lancet. In 1980, 857 million people were overweight or obese.
The increases in overweight and obesity “have been substantial, widespread, and have arisen over a short time,” according to the study, which analyzed data that included the heights and weights of people in 183 countries. Today, it said, 36.9% of the world’s men and 38% of women are overweight or obese.
No country reported a significant decrease in obesity over that period, said Christopher Murray, director of IHME. “The fact that no country has had a statistically significant reduction in the time period was a surprise,” he said, showing that policies to address the epidemic haven’t had an effect yet.
Obesity is generally thought of as a disease of prosperity—indeed, the U.S. was the heaviest country in 2013, with 13% of the world’s obese, according to the IHME study, and obesity rates are highest in the developed world.
But while North America and Europe stood out as the world’s heavyweights in 1980, increases in adult obesity prevalence there have slowed since 2006 and now “you see the share in the rest of the world going up very dramatically,” Murray said.
He cited South Africa as one extreme case: 42% of women there are obese, meaning that a country battling malnutrition and a substantial burden of HIV/AIDS also grapples with chronic conditions linked to excess weight.
More than 50% of the world’s 671 million obese people live in 10 countries, the study said, ranking them in order: the U.S., China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan and Indonesia.
In Tonga, 52.4% of men are obese. More than 50% of women are obese in Tonga, Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia and other countries.
An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.
More on weight and health:
10 things you feed your kids but probably shouldn’t
World’s kids get fatter, and doctors turn to the knife (WSJ.com)
Selling health insurance by the pound
View more information: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/nearly-30-of-world-is-overweight-or-obese-study-2014-05-29