Report: Obesity continues to rise; plateau seen in some developed countries

Obesity rates in adults and children have increased significantly worldwide, according to a new analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, published in The Lancet.

Researchers performed a comprehensive study of reports, surveys and scientific literature to track trends in the prevalence of global, regional and national overweight and obesity.

Findings showed from 1980 to 2013, obesity in adults aged 20 years and older rose 28%, while children and adolescents aged 2 years to 19 years saw a 47% increase. The number of overweight and obese individuals rose from 857 million to 2.1 billion.

“Our findings show that increases in the prevalence of obesity have been substantial, widespread, and have arisen over a short time,” Emmanuela Gakidou, PhD, professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, stated in a news release. “Unlike other major global health risks, such as tobacco and childhood nutrition, obesity is not decreasing.”

In developed countries, the prevalence of overweight and obesity in childhood increased from 17% to 24% in boys and from 16% to 23% in girls. In developing countries, rates rose roughly 8% to 13% in both boys and girls.

In developed countries men generally have higher rates than women, while women are more likely to be obese in developing countries.

Some of the most significant increases occurred in the United States, where nearly a third of the adult population is obese, according the report.

There is evidence of a plateau in adult obesity in developed countries, and in some developing countries, obese populations may not reach rates of more than 40%, Gakidou said. However, there is still the potential for obesity rates to rise again, and that action is needed to reverse this trend, she said.

“Urgent global leadership is needed to help reduce excessive calorie intake, physical inactivity, and active promotion of food consumption by industry,” Gakidou said. “That is unlikely to be achieved without concerted action and further research to assess the effect of population-wide interventions, and how to effectively translate that knowledge into national obesity control programs.”

For more information:

Gakidou E. Lancet Glob Health. 2014:doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60460-8.

Disclosure: Study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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