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More Obese People Than Underweight Ones On Earth

There are currently more obese people walking the earth than underweight ones, says a study published in The Lancet.

underweight obesity

The epidemic of obesity has been taking into its folds many more people. Obesity growing into an epidemic has constituted an alarming issue for several years now. While losing excessive weight used to be considered as a social scourge, with people, specially women striving and struggling with body image, the balance has tilted to the opposite end now, according to a study spanning over 200 countries for a period of 4 decades. We now have more obese people than underweight individuals, says senior author Majid Ezzati from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London.

The number of obese people has gone from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million recently. Obesity in men has increased from 3.2% to 10.8% while it has gone from 6.4% to 14.9% in their female counterparts. On the other hand, underweight people have decreased in number: from 13.8% to 8.8% in men, and 14.6% to 9.7% in women.

These findings thus show that the world made the transition from being dominated by an underweight-issue— back in 1975, the prevalence thereof was around twice more serious than obesity— to an obesity epidemic that has surpassed the previous problem.

Ezzati warns that we might not be able to curb the increase in the prevalence of obesity if the current trends persist. He also thinks that even more women will fall prey to obesity instead of the underweight trend by 2025.

A great proportion of obese people are from developed countries such as Australia (where around 27% of the population are thought to be obese), Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, UK and the US. Research director of the Health and Nutrition Program at CSIRO, Manny Noakes, blames the easy availability of junk food and beverages that encourage the trends.

The consequences that come with the epidemic of obesity are far-reaching: they are not limited to the resulting associated diseases; rather, they include negative effects on the environment. Noakes explains that obesity implies a greater consumption of fuel and food — a situation that is considered to be unsustainable. According to him, there is a dire need for “food policies and universal nutrition and healthy weight programs”.

Obesity seems to be here to stay, and to worsen, if something is not done. However, these findings should not eclipse the other side of the coin, argue the researchers. Poor countries still have a high number of underweight people. This is concentrated in South Asia, where almost 25% of the population do not reach the adequate body weight, and in other regions like central and east Africa.

The world is made of extremes, now more than ever. Is it not time yet for humans to bring their minds together to make of the world a better place?


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