One in eight people in the world suffers from obesity, according to the WHO

More than one billion people, or one in eight on the planet, suffer from obesityaccording to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) published by the specialized journal The Lancet, which warns that this chronic disease has become the most common form of malnutrition.

The study, with data from more than 190 countries and prepared in collaboration with Imperial College London, indicates that among children and adolescents in the world the obesity rate in 2022 was four times higher than in 1990, while, among adults, this rate doubled in women and almost tripled in men.

“Obesity figures have stabilized in many rich countries, but they are increasing rapidly in other parts of the world such as Asia or Latin America,” he said when presenting the study, which comes a few days before the International Day against Obesity (March 4), one of its authors, Imperial College professor Majid Ezzati.

The report estimates that some 159 million children and adolescents between 5 and 19 years old suffered from obesity in 2022, a figure that in adults rose to 879 million people, which represents 43% of the world’s adult population in that year. year he was overweight.

“It is very worrying that the obesity epidemic that was evident among adults in much of the world in the 1990s is now also reflected in children and adolescents,” Ezzati said.

The study also shows that between 1990 and 2022 the proportion of children affected by underweight (low weight in relation to age) decreased by a fifth among girls and by more than a third among boys, while it decreased among adults. more than half during this same period.

Rising levels of obesity coupled with this decline in the number of underweight people since 1990 has made overweight the most common form of malnutrition in most countries.

However, “insufficient nutrition and obesity “They are two sides of the same problem, the lack of access to healthy diets,” said the director of the WHO Department of Nutrition and Food Safety, Francesco Branca.

Branca recalled that while the Insufficient nutrition puts many children at greater risk of illness and death, especially in regions such as East Africa or South Asia, obesity can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes or even some types of cancer.

Differences between countries and continents

According to the data collected, the countries with the highest prevalence of obesity in 2022 are the Pacific and Caribbean archipelagos, where nearly two-thirds of adults are obese.

On the European continent, the United Kingdom saw its obesity rate increase from 13.8% in 1990 to 28.3% in 2022 for women and from 10.7% to 26.9% for men, with a prevalence of obesity that ranked 87th in the world for women and 55th for men in 2022.

At the opposite pole, China ranked 190th in the world for women, the 11th lowest in the world ranking, and 149th for men, the 52nd lowest, in 2022.

Branca stressed the need for prevention policies to reduce obesity, and in this sense cited the progress that countries such as France or Spain have achieved in reducing overweight among women in the country.

Global crises, a risk factor for obesity

According to Dr. Guha Pradeepa, co-author of the study, current global problems such as climate change, disruptions caused by the pandemic or conflict can worsen global rates of both forms of malnutrition, by increasing poverty and the cost of food. food rich in nutrients.

Given this situation, experts assured that it is necessary to implement comprehensive policies to address these challenges, such as regulations on the marketing of harmful foods and beverages aimed at children.

They also recommend initiatives to regulate the sale of products high in fat, sugar and salt near schools, or pricing and nutritional labeling policies to promote healthier diets.

The Director General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, recalled that achieving the global objectives of reducing obesity will require the joint work of governments, communities and national public health organizations, as well as the cooperation of the private sector, which “must be accountable for the health repercussions of its products.”