Overweight and Obesity Epidemic Climbs to 2.1 Billion People Worldwide


The obesity epidemic isn’t just a growing problem in the U.S. One-third of the entire world population is now overweight or obese, regardless of social or economic class, finds new research.

Since 1980, the number of obese or overweight people in the world has steadily climbed from 857 million to a staggering 2.1 billion in 2013.

According to the study, published in the recent issue of the journal The Lancet, “the proportion of men who were overweight or obese rose from 28.8% in 1980 to 36.9% in 2013, while the proportion of women in that category increased from 29.8% to 38% during the same period,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

Tonga, the small Polynesian island, ranked at the top of the list, having the most obese people per capita. Kuwait, Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia, Libya, Qatar and Samoa all had obesity rates above 50 percent for women, reports the Times.

The U.S. weighed in with 31.6 percent of men and 33.9 percent of women as obese, and has 13 percent of the world’s total obese individuals—more than any other country.

Researchers all around the world participated in the study, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, compiling the data from 183 countries. “Overweight” was defined as a body mass index of 25 or higher and “obesity” was defined as having a body mass index of at least 30.

Developed countries including the U.S. saw a rise in children from less than 17 percent of both boys and girls overweight or obese in 1980 to more than 22 percent of girls and nearly 24 percent of boys in 2013. In developing countries, the numbers rose from 8.1 percent among girls to 12.9 percent and 8.4 percent in boys up to 13.4 percent.

A 2010 study also published in The Lancet found a connection between 3.4 million deaths around the world and the obesity epidemic.

“A few extra pounds may seem harmless, but their cumulative effect is serious, public health experts say,” reports the Times. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that being overweight or obese will increase your risk of such life-threatening conditions as coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer, among other problems.”

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