Globally, more than two billion children and adults suffer from health problems related to being overweight or obese, and an increasing percentage of people die from these health conditions, according to a new study published by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington. The study, entitled “Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity in 195 Countries over 25 years”, was launched at the 2017 EAT Food Forum in Stockholm and published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Of the 4.0 million deaths attributed to excess body weight in 2015, nearly 40% occurred among people whose body mass index fell below the threshold considered “obese.” This means that they are dying even though they are not technically considered obese.
United States and Egypt top list
The findings represent a growing and disturbing global public health crisis, according to the authors of the paper. “Excess body weight is one of the most challenging public health problems of our time, affecting nearly one in every three people,” said Dr. Ashkan Afshin, the paper’s lead author and an Assistant Professor of Global Health at IHME.
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%. Lowest rates were in Bangladesh and Vietnam, respectively, at 1%. China with 15.3 million and India with 14.4 million had the highest numbers of obese children; the United States with 79.4 million and China with 57.3 million had the highest numbers of obese adults in 2015.
The study, which spans 195 countries and territories from 1980 through 2015, is based on data from the most recent Global Burden of Disease study (GBD). This is a systematic, scientific effort to quantify the magnitude of health loss from all major diseases, injuries, and risk factors by age, sex, and population.
The top 10 findings from the obesity report are:
- In 2015, 2.2 billion people were overweight or obese worldwide.
- In 2015, 107.7 million children and 603.7 million adults were obese worldwide. The overall prevalence of obesity for children and adults was 5.0% and 12.0%, respectively.
- Among adults, the prevalence of obesity was generally higher for women than for men in all age brackets.
- Prevalence of obesity has doubled in 73 countries between 1980 and 2015
- Obesity prevalence increased by 1.7 fold in both men and women of all ages in low-middle and middle SDI countries between 1980 and 2015.
- Among the 20 most populous countries, the highest level of obesity among children and young adults was in United States at nearly 13%; Egypt topped the list of adult obesity with about 35%.
- China with 15.3 million and India with 14.4 million had the highest number of obese children; the United States with 79.4 million and China with 57.3 million had the highest number of obese adults in 2015.
- Excess body weight accounted for 4.0 million deaths and 120 million DALYs worldwide in 2015 (NOTE: DALY is an abbreviation for disability-adjusted life year. This universal metric allows researchers to compare health conditions across time. DALYs equal the sum of years of life lost and years lived with disability. One DALY equals one lost year of healthy life.)
- Nearly 70% of deaths related to high BMI are due to cardiovascular disease, and over 60% of those deaths occurs among the obese. Diabetes was the second leading cause of BMI-related deaths in 2015.
- Nearly 40% of deaths related to excess body weight occurred in persons who were not obese.