World Health: More than a billion people are obese World Health: More than a billion people are obese

World Health: More than a billion people are obese

World Health: More than a billion people are obese

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Updated estimates by the World Health Organization and a group of international researchers revealed that more than a billion people are now considered to have obesity , a condition associated with an increased risk of many serious health problems.

Among these billion are children and adolescents, according to estimates published a few days before World Obesity Day on March 4, showing the acceleration of this scourge in low- and middle-income countries.

The new study - published by the British scientific journal The Lancet and contributed by the World Health Organization - showed that obesity rates among adults have more than doubled worldwide between 1990 and 2022, and four times among children and adolescents between 5 and 19 years old.

Obesity has become so widespread that it has become more common than thinness in most countries, including many low- and middle-income countries that previously faced difficulties with malnutrition.

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An amazing number
"A surprising number of people are obese," said Majed Ezzati, lead researcher on the study published in The Lancet on Thursday and a professor at Imperial College London.

These results, considered among the most reliable independent estimates, are based on data from more than 220 million people in more than 190 countries.

Ezzati stated that although obesity rates have stabilized in many wealthy countries, they are rising rapidly in other places. While underweight is becoming less common globally, it remains a major problem in many countries, leaving increasing numbers of countries facing what is known as the “double burden” of malnutrition.

The study said that obesity rates in adults increased more than twice between 1990 and 2022, and more than 4 times among children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 19 years.

It was found that during the same period, the proportion of girls, boys and adults considered thin decreased by a fifth, a third and a half, respectively.

Ezzati described the rise in obesity rates among children as "very disturbing." At the same time, he said, hundreds of millions do not have enough food.

Early death
Very severe underweight may harm children's growth and, in its most severe cases, may lead to death from starvation. Those who suffer from obesity are also at risk of premature death and disability due to its association with early diabetes, heart and kidney disease, and a large number of other serious health conditions.

The newspaper said that the increase in the double burden was greater in some low- and middle-income countries, including places in the Caribbean and the Middle East.

Obesity rates in these countries are now higher than in many high-income countries, especially Europe. Ezzati said that there are indications in some European countries, such as Spain, that obesity rates have begun to decrease or are at least stabilizing.

This is the team's first update since 2017, and more than 1,500 scientists from the Noncommunicable Disease Risk Factors Collaboration Network participated.

Estimates at that stage indicated that about 774 million people over the age of five were suffering from obesity, a percentage similar to about one in every eight people, according to the new figures.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it is necessary to take measures, such as imposing taxes on high-sugar products and encouraging healthy meals in schools, to help address obesity rates.

"More importantly, it requires the cooperation of the private sector, which must be held accountable for the health effects of its products," he added.

For his part, Director of the Department of Nutrition and Food Safety at the World Health Organization, Professor Francesco Branca, noted during a press conference that this “epidemic” is spreading “more quickly than expected.” Expectations indicated that crossing the threshold of one billion people suffering from obesity would occur around the year 2030, according to Professor Ezzati, one of the main authors of the study.

world problem
Obesity - which is a chronic, interconnected, multifactorial disease - is associated with an increase in the death rate due to other diseases, such as heart disease, arterial diseases, diabetes, and some types of cancer. The Covid-19 pandemic was an example of this, during which excess weight was a risk factor.

The study noted that obesity rates in some low- or middle-income countries, especially in Polynesia, Micronesia, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North Africa, are higher than those recorded in many industrialized countries, especially Europe.

Professor Branca commented on this by saying, "In the past, we tended to consider obesity as a problem for rich countries, but now it has become a global problem." He believed that the reason lies mainly in “a rapid transformation, and not for the better, in food systems in low- and middle-income countries.”

On the other hand, a group of indicators in the study indicated “a decline in obesity, especially among women, in some southern European countries, most notably Spain and France,” according to Ezzati.

Obesity treatments have been witnessing a new era for several months, as medications for diabetes have proven effective in losing weight, creating hope for millions of patients and pushing pharmaceutical companies to compete in this field.

Branca considered that "these medications are an important tool, but not a solution" for obesity and its prevention. He stressed the need to take into account "the side or long-term effects of these medications."

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