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Global Obesity Shoots Up as Obese People Now Outnumber Underweight Population

First Posted: Apr 04, 2016 06:30 AM EDT
Fitness And Fatness On The Government Agenda

Fitness And Fatness On The Government Agenda(Photo : Bruno Vincent/Getty Images )

The world is getting bigger and a new study by researchers from Imperial College London revealed the data behind it. Published in The Lancet, the study compared the body mass index (BMI) of nearly 20 million adults over the years from 1975 to 2014 with several significant findings including the fact that obesity is at an all-time global high -- even outnumbering the people who are underweight.

Obesity On the Rise All Around the World

The research collected data from 9·9 million men and 9·3 million women in 186 countries. Over the period covered, the obesity in men has tripled and more than doubled in women.

Furthermore, the number of those who are obese rose dramatically from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in 2014. Divided by gender, this marks 266 million obese men worldwide and 375 million obese women.

Other findings include the prevalence of obesity in China and the U.S. while the U.K. also marks the third highest BMI for women and the 10th highest for men in Europe. China has the largest obese population with 43.2 million men and 46.4 million women, but U.S. is a close second with 41.7 million men and 46.1 million women.

High income also plays a part in obesity as the data showed that nearly a fifth of the obese adults in the world live in six high-income English-speaking nations: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.

On the other end of the spectrum, underweight people have also increased in number from 330 million to 462 million, but the rates have actually dropped from 14 percent to 9 percent in men and 15 percent to 10 percent in women. It remains a problem for India and Bangladesh.

Addressing the Alarming Numbers of Obesity

The study's lead author Prof. Majid Ezzat called the upward trend an "epidemic of severe obesity" in BBC.

"Our research has shown that over 40 years we have transitioned from a world in which underweight prevalence was more than double that of obesity, to one in which more people are obese than underweight," Ezzat explained. "Although it is reassuring that the number of underweight individuals has decreased over the last four decades, global obesity has reached crisis point."

He added, "We hope these findings create an imperative to shift responsibility from the individual to governments and to develop and implement policies to address obesity."

Some of the measures Ezzat mentioned to address the growing obesity are making healthy food options more affordable and making unhealthy processed food more expensive to acquire.

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