Obesity levels set to hit record highs by 2035, report shows

A global study from the World Obesity Federation estimates 51% of the world will be overweight and one in four people will be obese in the next 12 years.

The World Obesity Atlas 2023, published by the World Obesity Federation today, uncovered more than four billion people will be affected, with rates rising the quickest amongst children. Low or middle-income countries in Africa and Asia are also expected to see the greatest rises.

person standing on white digital bathroom scale

Describing the data as a ‘clear warning’, Professor Louise Baur, President of the federation, said policymakers needed to act now to prevent the situation from worsening.

Professor Baur said: ‘It is particularly worrying to see obesity rates rising fastest among children and adolescents.

‘Government’s and policymakers around the world need to do all they can to avoid passing health, social and economic costs on to the younger generation.’

The report exposed that childhood obesity could do more than double from 2020 levels to 208 million boys and 175 million girls in the next 12 years.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Childhood Measurement Programme revealed one in four 10 and 11-year-olds in England are obese. The organisation discovered obesity levels rocketed in school age pupils in reception class and year six.

In addition to bringing people’s attention to the matter to help protect children’s health, the cost of trying to help obese children could severely impact the economy. The report found more than $4 trillion annually could be spent by 2035, or 3% of global gross domestic product (GDP).

However, in response to this figure, the authors of the report have said they were not blaming individuals, but calling for a focus on societal, environmental, and biological factors involved in the conditions.

The report uses body mass index (BMI) for its assessments, a number calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared. In line with the World Health Organisation’s guidelines, a BMI score of more than 25 is classed as being overweight and more than 30 is obese.

In 2020, 2.6 billion people fell into these categories which equates to 38% of the world’s population.

The effects of obesity’s prevalence on lower-income countries is also highlighted in the report. Nine of the 10 countries with the greatest expected increases in obesity globally are low or lower-middle income states in Africa and Asia.

Reasons for this include trends in dietary preferences towards more highly processed foods, greater levels of sedentary behaviour, weaker policies to control food supply and marketing, and less well-resourced healthcare services to assist in weight management and health education.

The data from the report is due to be presented to United Nations policymakers and member states next week.

Photo by i yunmai


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