Obese people outnumber underweight ones: Global survey

London : If a major global analysis study is to be believed, then we now live in a world where more people are obese than underweight.

In the past 40 years, there has been a startling increase in the number of obese people worldwide, rising from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in 2014, according to the most comprehensive analysis of trends in body mass index (BMI) to date.

The age-corrected proportion of obese men has more than tripled (3.2 percent to 10.8 percent) and the proportion of obese women has more than doubled (6.4 percent to 14.9 percent) since 1975. At the same time, the proportion of underweight people fell more modestly, by around a third in both men (13.8 percent to 8.8 percent) and women (14.6 percent to 9.7 percent).

Over the past four decades, the average age-corrected BMI increased from 21.7kg/m² to 24.2 kg/m² in men and from 22.1kg/m² to 24.4 kg/m² in women, equivalent to the world’s population becoming on average 1.5kg heavier each decade. If the rate of obesity continues at this pace, by 2025 roughly a fifth of men (18 percent) and women (21 percent) worldwide will be obese, and more than 6 percent of men and 9 percent of women will be severely obese.

“Over the past 40 years, we have changed from a world in which underweight prevalence was more than double that of obesity, to one in which more people are obese than underweight,” explained senior author Professor Majid Ezzati from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. “If present trends continue, not only will the world not meet the obesity target of halting the rise in the prevalence of obesity at its 2010 level by 2025, but more women will be severely obese than underweight by 2025.”

He added that to avoid an epidemic of severe obesity, new policies that can slow down and stop the worldwide increase in body weight must be implemented quickly and rigorously evaluated, including smart food policies and improved health-care training.

The study found that women in Singapore, Japan and a few European countries including Czech Republic, Belgium, France, and Switzerland had virtually no increase in average BMI over the 40 years.

Island nations in Polynesia and Micronesia have the highest average BMI in the world reaching 34.8 kg/m² for women and 32.2 kg/m² for men in American Samoa. In Polynesia and Micronesia more than 38 percent of men and over half of women are obese.

Timor-Leste, Ethiopia, and Eritrea have the lowest average BMI in the world.

More than a fifth of men in India, Bangladesh, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia and a quarter or more of women in Bangladesh and India are still underweight.

Among high-income English-speaking countries, the USA has the highest BMI for both men and women. More than one in four severely obese men and almost one in five severely obese women in the world live in the USA.

Men in Cyprus, Ireland, and Malta and women in Moldova have the highest average BMI in Europe. Bosnian and Dutch men and Swiss women have the lowest average BMI in Europe.

The UK has the third highest average BMI in Europe for women equal to Ireland and the Russian Federation (all around 27.0 kg/m²) and tenth highest for men along with Greece, Hungary, and Lithuania (all around 27.4 kg/m²).

Almost a fifth of the world’s obese adults (118 million) live in just six high-income English-speaking countries–Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, UK, and USA. Over a quarter (27.1 percent; 50 million) of the world’s severely obese people also live in these countries.

By 2025, the UK is projected to have the highest levels of obese women in Europe (38 percent), followed by Ireland (37 percent) and Malta (34 percent). Similar trends are projected in men, with Ireland and the UK again showing the greatest proportion (both around 38 percent), followed Lithuania (36 percent).

By comparison, 43 percent of US women and 45 percent of US men are predicted to be obese in 2025.

The study appears in Lancet. (ANI)