Facts about overweight and obesity
In 2016, over 650 million adults were obese – 11% of men and 15% of women. That amounts to about 13% of the world’s adult population. Between 1975 and 2016, the worldwide prevalence of obesity has nearly tripled – with the most growth observed in Asia. Almost half of the children under 5 who were overweight or obese in 2019 lived in Asia.
Shockingly, there are more deaths worldwide due to overweight and obesity than underweight.
What causes obesity and overweight?
The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Globally, there has been:
- an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars; and
- an increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.
- Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often the result of environmental and societal changes associated with the development and lack of supportive policies in sectors such as health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing, and education.
What are the common health consequences of being overweight and obese?
Raised BMI is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as:
- cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), which were the leading cause of death in 2012;
- musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis – a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints);
- some cancers (including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon).
The risk for these diseases increases, with increases in BMI.
Childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death, and disability in adulthood. But in addition to increased future risks, obese children experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects.
So, how do we win this war against obesity?
The good news is that overweight and obesity, as well as their related non-communicable diseases, are largely preventable. By only making the following lifestyle changes, we can bring significant health gains into our life –
- limit energy intake from total fats and sugars;
- increase consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts; and
- engage in regular physical activity (60 minutes a day for children and 150 minutes per week for adults).