Before World Obesity Day on 4th March, WHO Study Says The Obesity Rate has Increased Worldwide

Over the last three decades, rates of obesity have quadrupled among children and doubled among adults.

The findings of new research reveal that over 1 billion people worldwide are grappling with obesity, a condition that has seen a staggering fourfold increase among children over 32 years. This study, published in The Lancet, delves into the analysis of weight and height measurements of over 220 million individuals from more than 190 countries, shedding light on the shifting landscape of body mass index (BMI) across the globe from 1990 to 2022. Collaboratively conducted by approximately 1,500 researchers associated with the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration and the World Health Organization (WHO), the research underscores a significant surge in obesity rates among both children and adults during the study period.

The data reveals a stark reality: obesity rates among children skyrocketed fourfold while doubling among adults. Globally, the obesity prevalence among girls escalated from 1.7% in 1990 to 6.9% in 2022, while boys experienced a similar trajectory, with rates climbing from 2.1% to 9.3% over the same timeframe. In the realm of adult obesity, the figures paint a concerning picture, with rates ascending from 8.8% to 18.5% for women and from 4.8% to 14% for men over the study duration. Meanwhile, the prevalence of underweight individuals declined for both children and adults, marking obesity as the prevailing form of malnutrition across numerous countries worldwide.

By 2022, a staggering 880 million adults and 159 million children were living with obesity globally. Tonga, American Samoa, and Nauru emerged as nations grappling with the highest obesity rates, exceeding 60%. Notably, the United Kingdom ranked 87th highest for obesity rates among women and 55th highest among men worldwide.

Professor Majid Ezzati, senior author of the study, expressed deep concern over the epidemic of obesity, remarking on its expansion from adults to school-age children and adolescents. He emphasized the urgent need to address both obesity and undernutrition by enhancing the accessibility and affordability of healthy, nutritious foods.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, emphasized the imperative of governmental and communal efforts, supported by evidence-based policies, to meet global targets in curbing obesity. He underscored the crucial role of the private sector in being accountable for the health impacts of their products.

Professor Simon Kenny, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Children and Young People, highlighted the profound implications of obesity on children’s health, emphasizing its association with an increased risk of various illnesses and a diminished quality of life. He underscored the NHS’s commitment to addressing extreme weight issues through specialized clinics, while also stressing the need for collaborative action from industry and society at large to avert future health crises.

The Increased number of Obese People Significantly Increases the Chance of Other Diseases in an Individual’s Body, Creating a greater risk of decreased Immunity. (Image: The Indian Express)

Where Does India Stand?

India, like many countries around the world, is facing a growing epidemic of obesity. While historically, malnutrition and undernutrition were significant health concerns in India, the landscape has shifted in recent decades with rising affluence, urbanization, and changes in lifestyle contributing to a surge in obesity rates.

According to data from various studies and government sources, the prevalence of obesity in India has been steadily increasing over the past few decades. Factors contributing to this rise include changes in dietary habits, increased consumption of processed and high-calorie foods, sedentary lifestyles, and a lack of awareness about the importance of physical activity and healthy eating.

One of the significant challenges in addressing obesity in India is the coexistence of undernutrition and obesity, particularly in lower-income populations. This phenomenon, often referred to as the “double burden of malnutrition,” poses unique challenges for healthcare providers and policymakers in the country.

In urban areas, access to unhealthy, calorie-dense foods has become more accessible, while traditional diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains have taken a backseat. Additionally, with the proliferation of fast-food chains and the marketing of processed foods, especially to children and adolescents, unhealthy eating habits have become ingrained in society.

Sedentary lifestyles, exacerbated by increasing urbanization and reliance on technology, have also played a significant role in the rise of obesity. Many individuals, particularly in urban areas, lead increasingly sedentary lives, spending long hours sitting at desks or in front of screens, with limited physical activity.

Furthermore, cultural factors and societal norms can also influence perceptions of body weight and shape, with some communities viewing larger body sizes as a sign of prosperity and good health. This cultural acceptance of larger body sizes may contribute to a lack of awareness about the health risks associated with obesity.

The healthcare system in India is also grappling with the challenges posed by rising obesity rates. While the country’s healthcare infrastructure has made significant strides in addressing infectious diseases and maternal and child health, the focus on non-communicable diseases like obesity and its associated comorbidities is relatively recent.

Managing Obesity Endemic.

Addressing the obesity epidemic in India will require a multi-faceted approach involving government intervention, public health campaigns, education, and community engagement. Efforts to promote healthy eating habits, increase physical activity, and improve access to healthcare services will be crucial in stemming the tide of obesity and its associated health consequences in the country. Additionally, addressing socioeconomic inequalities and promoting equity in access to healthcare and healthy foods will be essential in ensuring that all segments of society can lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

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