New statistics, recently released, estimate that the number of obese and overweight people in the world has jumped from 860 million in 1980 to around 2.1 billion in 2013. This means that almost a third of the world is now overweight.
Worldwide prevalence of obesity and overweight during this period (1980 – 2013) rose by 28% for adults and by 47% for children. The rise in childhood obesity is particularly troubling in developing countries.
No country has been able to curb these frightening increases in the obesity rates. According to the US Centres for Disease control (CDC), in the UK 25% of the adult population is obese. In the US, more than one-third of the US population is obese, and in Australia, 28% of the men and 30% of the women have weight problems.
South Africa too suffers from this health epidemic. A survey by the global company, GlaxoSmithKline, this year confirmed that at least 60% or nearly 2 out of every three South Africans, are overweight, obese or morbidly obese.
More than half the world’s obese people are found in 10 countries – US, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan and Indonesia. In Tonga, more than half of all adults, both male and female, are obese. In Kuwait, Libya, Quatar and Samoa, more than half of all women are obese.
The US carries the heaviest obese burden of the 180 countries analysed – 13% of the worlds obese people, while China and India together account for 15% of the world’s total.
Americans are notorious for eating mainly fast foods and cheap processed and packaged foods, often loaded with sugar, fructose and grains. Even more troubling is the massive increase in the rate of “extreme obesity” (BMI over 40) in the US over the last few years.
One in 4 Americans are also pre-diabetic or diabetic, and heart disease and cancer, both of which are associated with obesity, top the mortality charts in the US.
This surge in the global obesity epidemic, often referred to as “Globesity” needs urgent attention. Prof John Newton, chief officer at Public Health England, said “Obesity is a complex issue that requires action at national, local, family and individual level; everyone has a role to play in improving the health and well-being of the public, and children in particular”.