Data published recently reveal that for the first time there are now more people who are obese than underweight in the world. The research, led by scientists from Imperial College London, compared body mass index (BMI) among almost 20 million adult men and women from 1975 to 2014. The study found that during the 40-year period, obesity in men tripled and in women it more than doubled. Meanwhile, over the same time frame, the proportion of underweight people fell from 14 percent to 9 percent of men and from 15 percent to 10 percent of women.
The study showed that number of obese people in the world rose from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in 2014, with obesity rates rising from 3 percent to 11 percent among men and from 6 percent to 15 percent among women.
On average, people worldwide have become an average of 1.5 kilograms heavier each decade. At the current pace, about 18 percent of men and 21 percent of women will be obese, and more than 6 percent of men and 9 percent of women will be severely obese by 2025, the study found.
Over the past four decades, the world has changed from one in which underweight prevalence was more than double that of obesity, to one in which more people are obese than underweight.
The researchers said that to avoid an epidemic of severe obesity, new policies that can slow down and stop the worldwide increase in body weight must be implemented quickly and rigorously evaluated, including smart food policies and improved health care training.
Despite the findings, extremely low weight remains a serious public health problem in the poorest parts of the world, the researchers noted. For example, nearly one-quarter of people in south Asia are underweight, as are 15 percent of men and 12 percent of women in central and east Africa.
Sociologists note that the study findings reflect ‘a fatter, healthier but more unequal world’. A focus on obesity at the expense of recognizing the substantial remaining burden of under-nutrition threatens to divert resources away from disorders that affect the poor to those that are more likely to affect the wealthier in low-income countries," they warned.