Global Obesity Rates Hit Alarming Milestone, Surpassing 1 Billion People

Global Obesity

It is a widely acknowledged fact that global obesity rates have been steadily climbing, and a recent comprehensive analysis published in the Lancet sheds light on the magnitude of this health crisis. The study, conducted by global health researcher Majid Ezzati and colleagues, reveals that more than 1 billion people worldwide were living with obesity as of 2022, constituting approximately one-eighth of the global population. To put this in perspective, in 2016, nearly 800 million people were reported to have obesity according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Obesity, characterized by the presence of excess body fat that compromises health, has far-reaching consequences. Renowned obesity expert Arya Sharma from the University of Alberta in Edmonton emphasizes that this chronic disease heightens the risk for conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, vulnerability to diseases like COVID-19, and can adversely impact mobility and mental health.

The analysis drew from over 3,600 population-based studies spanning several decades, encompassing 222 million participants across almost 200 countries and territories. The researchers utilized each participant’s reported weight and height to calculate their Body Mass Index (BMI).

The study revealed that in 2022, almost 900 million adults worldwide had a BMI of 30 or above, indicating obesity. Among children and adolescents aged 5 to 19, nearly 160 million were estimated to have obesity based on the WHO’s growth reference curves, which account for age and sex.

From 1990 to 2022, the prevalence of obesity doubled in women, tripled in men, and quadrupled in children and adolescents. Simultaneously, global rates of underweight individuals declined. According to Ezzati of Imperial College London, the transition from underweight to obesity has been rapid, emphasizing the need to view these issues as interconnected.

Ezzati underscores the urgency for governments and societies to address this escalating crisis through preventative measures and medical care. Despite the emergence of promising anti-obesity medications like Wegovy, their high costs and limited integration into global medical guidance pose challenges to widespread accessibility.

The researchers identify limited access to and the unaffordability of healthy foods as a major contributor to the surge in obesity rates. Additionally, societal-level lifestyle changes, including reduced sleep, heightened stress levels, and decreased time spent at home, contribute to increased consumption of processed foods and overeating.

Sharma notes that the complex biology of appetite is influenced by environmental changes, emphasizing the need for comprehensive strategies that address both individual behaviors and broader societal factors.

As the global obesity crisis reaches unprecedented levels, urgent and concerted efforts are required on multiple fronts to curb its impact on public health.