The number of obese adults across the globe has surpassed the underweight ones during the past four decades, a new study says.
The study, which was carried out by a team led by researchers from Imperial College London, compared body mass index (BMI) from 1975 to 2014 across over 19.2 million adult participants (9.9 million men and 9.3 million women) from 186 countries. Its findings were published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet on Saturday.
The BMI is an attempt to quantify the amount of muscle, fat, and bone mass in an individual. It is derived by dividing a person’s body weight in kilograms by the person’s squared height in meters. A person with lower than 18.5 BMI is underweight, from 25 to 30 he or she is considered overweight, and from 30 upwards is considered obese.
The research showed that global obesity numbers have risen from 105 million people in mid-70’s to 641 million in 2014. The proportion of obese men has seen a more than three-fold increase to roughly 11 percent, and the proportion of obese women has witnessed an over two-fold rise to about 15 percent.
“Over the past 40 years, we have changed from a world in which underweight prevalence was more than double that of obesity, to one in which more people are obese than underweight,” said senior author Majid Ezzati, PhD, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom.
According to the study, over the same period, the proportion of underweight men decreased from about 14 percent to nine percent, and the proportion of underweight women dropped from 15 percent to 10 percent.
If these trends continue, by 2025, worldwide obesity prevalence will reach 18 percent in men and surpass 21 percent in women, with sever obesity surpassing six percent in men and nine percent in women, the study said, adding that underweight remains prevalent in the world’s poorest regions, especially in south Asia.
By quickly enacting “new policies that can slow down and stop the worldwide increase in body weight… including smart food policies and improved healthcare training,” the obesity epidemic can be curbed through the coming decades, Ezzati suggested.
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