Leo Sher, M.D.
Three days ago, The New England Journal of Medicine published a research report, “Health effects of overweight and obesity in 195 countries over 25 years” (1). The researchers examined data from 68.5 million individuals to measure the changes in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adults between 1980 and 2015. The authors also evaluated the burden of disease related to high body-mass index (BMI, the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters), according to age, sex, cause, and BMI in 195 countries between 1990 and 2015. Adults are defined as overweight if their BMI is between 25 to 29 and obese if their BMI ≥30. Overweight and obesity among children are defined, according to the International Obesity Task Force criteria. Multiple studies suggest that high BMI is a risk factor for many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney diseases, cancers, and musculoskeletal disorders
Researchers found that obesity rates have increased over the 25 years in the 195 countries. In more than 70 countries, including the United States, obesity rates at least doubled from 1980 to 2015. The world’s population of 7.5 billion now includes more than 2 billion people who are overweight or obese, according to the research report. Although the prevalence of obesity among children has been lesser than that among adults, the rate of rise in childhood obesity in many countries has been larger than the rate of increase in adult obesity.
The study group also found that in 2015, high BMI contributed to four million deaths globally, nearly 40% of which occurred in individuals who were not obese. More than two thirds of deaths related to high BMI were due to cardiovascular disease. Diabetes was the second leading cause of BMI-related deaths.
1. The GBD 2015 Obesity Collaborators. Health effects of overweight and obesity in 195 countries over 25 years. The New England Journal of Medicine, Published online on June 12, 2017. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1614362