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Overweight and Obesity is Growing at an Alarming Rate

on Sun, 04/19/2015 - 17:42

Introduction

The rising prevalence of overweight and obesity in many countries in the last decades has been identified as a global pandemic which is producing negative impact on population health.

Overweight and obesity is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke) which is the top one leading cause of deaths worldwide; diabetes; musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis - a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints); and some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).  

Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive body fat accumulation that may negatively impact a person’s health. In practical terms, they are referred as body weight that is greater than what is generally considered healthy or normal for a certain height.

The most useful measure of overweight and obesity is the Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated from the person’s height and weight as a simple index of weight-for-height. It is defined as a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).

BMI = person’s weight in kg / (person’s height in meters)2

According to World Health Organization, overweight, obesity, and overweight and obesity are defined by the following BMI ranges:

  • Overweight:  BMI greater than or equal to 25 (kg/m2 ) and lower than 30 (kg/m2 )
  • Obese: BMI greater than or equal to 30 (kg/m2 )
  • Overweight and Obese: BMI greater than or equal to 25 (kg/m2 )

The Visualization

The interactive visualization shows the trends of level (top chart) and percent change (bottom chart) of age-standardized prevalence of overweight and obesity, and obesity alone in children and adolescents (2 to 19 years old) and adult (20+ years old) by sex in 21 regions, developed and developing economies and at global level from 1990 to 2013. 

Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 (GBD 2013) estimates of prevalence of overweight and obesity, and obesity alone for 188 countries, 21 regions and globally by age group and sex, for 1990-2013 were used as data source. Dataset is available online here.

The visualization allows you to select the metrics prevalence of overweight and obesity or obesity alone, and the group of population (children and adolescents (2-19 years old) or adults (20+ years old). Reader also is able to select the region or income group of countries to be compared. 

Findings

Worldwide, age-standardized prevalence of overweight and obesity combined in adults rose from 30.4% in 1990 to 37.5% in 2013, a 23.4% increase. Prevalence rose from 29.8% in 1990 to 36.9% in 2013, 23.8% increase since 1990 in males and from 30.8% to 38.0%, a  23.4% increased since 1990 in females.

Developed countries has a higher level of prevalence of overweight and obesity combined in adult population which increased from 46.9% in 1990 to 53.9% in 2013, for a 14.9% change since 1990. Developing group of countries (including countries with low and middle income economies) has a lower level of prevalence, however its rate of increase since 1990 shows alarming figures, 41.9% in both sexes (44.3% in males and 40.3% in females) 3 times higher than developed countries.

The rate of increase of overweight and obesity was greatest between 1995 and 2004 (identified with a color band in the chart), but has slowed down in the latest decade, especially in developed countries. This pattern is more prominent in children and adolescent population.

East Asia region is experiencing the higher percent change of increase since 1990. Its prevalence of overweight and obesity combined is lesser than developing countries but it rose 107.5% since 1990 (137.3% in males and 83.1% in females). This indicates that this region can reach the current level of prevalence from developed countries in few decades if no additional actions and interventions to protect population health are implemented. 

A similar story can be seen in age-standardized prevalence of obese people. Readers are encourage to interact with the visualization to explore the situation and trends of obese adults.  

In developed countries, more men than women were overweight and obese, whereas in developing countries, overweight and obesity was more prevalent in women than in men, and this association persisted over time.

In the case of children and adolescent (2-19 years old) there is a remarkable high level of age-standardized prevalence of overweight and obesity in developed countries, rising from 17.9% in 1990 to 23.3% in 2013 for a change of 30.2% since 1990. The change rate was significantly higher from 1995 to 2014 in developed countries, and since 2004 the change has slowed down.

The prevalence of overweight and obese children and adolescents in East Asia region shows a dramatic increase from 9.1% in 1990 to 18.5% in 2013, a percent change of 103.3% since 1990. This increase is higher in males, which prevalence rose from 10.0% in 1990 to 22.6% in 2013 for a 126% increase. 

If you have read till here, probably you are curious about the prevalence of overweight and obesity in other regions, or the region where your country is located. In that case, interact with the visualization by selecting regions, the metrics overweight and obesity combined or just obese people and age groups to see their results.

Geographic distribution and disparity of the prevalence of overweight and obesity can be explore using this visualization. The trend patterns of level and percent change of prevalence of overweight and obesity at country level are visualized here

Conclusions

The percentage of overweight and obese adults and children in the World is growing at an alarming rate. Developing countries are experienced the fast growth since 1990.

Urgent actions and intervention should be implemented mainly in developing countries where resources are limited and scarce.

Overweight and obesity, as well as their related noncommunicable diseases, are largely preventable. Supportive environments and communities are fundamental in shaping people’s choices, making the healthier choice of foods and regular physical activity the easiest choice (accessible, available and affordable), and therefore preventing obesity.

Governments and community leaders must play a more active regulatory role in order to assure the food industry provides healthier food and beverages. 

References

Marie Ng, Emmanuela Gakidou, Christopher Murray et al. Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. The Lancet Volume 384, No. 9945, p766–781, 30 August 2014 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60460-8 

Related contents

Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Worldwide

Interactive visualization showing the geographic distribution and disparities of age-standardized prevalence of overweight and obesity worldwide from 1990 to 2013.

Trends of Overweight and Obesity at Country Level

Interactive visualization showing the trends and percent change of age-standardized prevalence of overweight and obesity, and obesity alone in children and adolescents (2 to 19 years old) and adult (20+ years old) by sex in 188 countries from 1990 to 2013.

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