Global obesity rates have tripled since the 1970s, highlighting the urgent need for public health interventions in children and adults, according to research recently published in The Lancet.
The largest study of its kind, this analysis drew from nearly 1,700 population-based resources to capture a complete picture of global weight trends in the past four decades. Together, more than 19.2 million adults from 186 countries were included in the analysis, representing 99% of the world’s population.
According to findings, global obesity rates increased from 3% in 1975 to 11% in 2014. During the same period, average global BMI increased from 21.7 to 24.2 kg/m2 in men and 22.1 to 24.4 kg/m2 in women, putting most adults on the cusp of being overweight. And in 2014 in regions like Polynesia and Micronesia, average BMI was as high as 32.2 kg/m2, a measurement that is considered obese. If trends continue, experts estimate that 1 in 5 adults will be obese by 2025.
Findings are especially concerning, as studies continue to demonstrate the devastating health effects of overweight and obesity. In a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers followed 2.3 million Israeli adolescents for up to 40 years between 1967 and 2010. After tracking BMI and health outcomes, they found that obese adolescents were five times more likely to die from heart disease in the next 40 years than children that were at a healthy weight. They had double the risk for death from stroke and sudden death compared to healthy-weight adolescents.
Based on findings, there’s no question that we need to take meaningful steps to combat growing obesity rates. In the 2016 Shape of the Nation Executive Summary, experts highlight the need for children to get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Increasing physical activity in schools is especially important, since children spend more than half of their waking hours in school. Increasing physical activity is also a major goal for adults, who spend more time sitting than ever before.
By providing education about healthy lifestyle choices and tools to make positive changes, experts hope to combat obesity and improve the health of children and adults across the globe.