'Tsunami' of obesity worldwide: study

A "tsunami of obesity" is unfurling across the world, resulting in a near-doubling of the numbers of dangerously overweight adults since 1980, doctors warned on Friday.

More than half a billion men and women - nearly one in nine of all adults - are clinically obese, according to research by a team from Imperial College London, Harvard and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In 2008, the latest year for which statistics were available, nearly one woman in seven and one man in 10 were obese, it found.

Being too fat causes three million premature deaths each year from heart disease, diabetes, cancers and other disorders, according to the WHO.

The researchers described the tableau as "a population emergency."

"(It) will cost tens of millions of preventable deaths unless rapid and widespread actions are taken by governments and health-care systems worldwide," said the report, published by The Lancet.

The problem has been most prevalent in rich nations, rising most in the United States, followed by New Zealand and Australia for women, and Britain and Australia for men.

But many developing countries, especially in the Middle East and in rapidly urbanising areas, are catching up.

"These results suggest that overweight affects one-in-three adults and obesity affects one-in-nine adults - a tsunami of obesity that will eventually affect all regions of the world," Sonia Anand and Salim Yusuf of Canada's McMaster University wrote in a commentary accompanying the study.

Global obesity rates more than doubled for men, from 4.8 percent of male adults in 1980 to 9.8 percent in 2008. For women, the corresponding jump was from 7.9 to 13.8 percent.

The standard for assessing weight is the body-mass index (BMI), in which one's weight in kilos is divided by the square of one's height in metres.

A BMI of 25 to 30 corresponds to being overweight, while above 30 is obese.

Pacific islanders weighed in with the highest BMI levels, between 34 and 35, and notched up among the sharpest increases over the last three decades as well.

In Europe, women in Russia and Moldova were at the upper end of the scale with BMIs of 27.2 and 27.1, while the heftiest men on the continent resided in the Czech Republic and Ireland.

At the other end of the spectrum, Swiss women were the most svelte, with their French and Italian counterparts vying for second place.

Italy holds the distinction of being the only country in Europe where women's average BMI declined, dropping from 25.2 to 24.8.

The study also reported changes in blood pressure and cholesterol levels across nations.

Western European countries - especially Iceland, Andorra and Germany - have among the highest cholesterol levels in the world, while African nations have the lowest.

Systolic blood pressure - the maximum pressure exerted by the heart - is highest in the Baltic, and in East and West Africa.

The same levels were common in wealthy nations a generation ago, but have dropped dramatically since then, the study showed.

High-income countries have also seen a drop in cardiovascular diseases since 1980, despite high levels of obesity.

The United States in particular saw reductions in high blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as a slowdown in tobacco use, according to the study.

This suggests that lifestyle choices - including limiting consumption of animal products and sodium, and increasing physical activity - can play a key role in slashing heart disease.

Although commonly considered a "Western" problem, obesity is also growing in unexpected regions like the Middle East, where the average weight levels in several populations fall just shy of the benchmark for obesity.

wa/mh/ri/rl/ach

 

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine