In the last 33 years, not a single country has made serious progress in the fight against obesity. While in 1980, 857 million people worldwide were overweight or obese, by 2013 that number had more than doubled. Today, nearly one third of all living people — a whopping 2.1 billion — are either overweight or obese. These stats, including the graphics, come from a new analysis of 1,749 published studies on weight from around the world, published in the Lancet in May.
The analysis showed that the United States is home to the highest number of overweight and obese people in the world. In the U.S., 70.9 percent of men and 61.9 percent of women are overweight or obese, compared to 38 percent of men and 36.9 percent of women worldwide. Our waistlines start growing early — 28.8 percent of boys and 29.7 percent of girls are overweight or obese in the U.S., compared to 14.2 percent of boys and 14.7 percent of girls worldwide.
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While we have the most overweight citizens in terms of sheer numbers, a few other countries actually have higher rates of obesity, including Egypt, Qatar and Samoa. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of all the obese people in the world live in developing countries as of 2013. That sounds like a lot, but that’s largely a symptom of how many more people live in the developing world, rather than a hopeful indicator that citizens of developed countries are losing weight.
The researchers behind the analysis attribute the ballooning in overweight and obesity levels to increased calorie consumption, decreased exercise, and potential changes to the gut’s microbiome. Their research didn’t look to explain the causes, but they summarized their findings by writing that “increases in the prevalence of overweight and obesity have been substantial, widespread, and have arisen over a short time.”
Perhaps most frighteningly, the study shows that being overweight or obese caused 3.4 million deaths worldwide in 2010, accounting for 3.9 percent of years of life lost and 3.8 percent of disability-adjusted life-years. In comparison, 7.4 million people died of ischaemic heart disease in 2012, the leading cause of death, according to the World Health Organization, and 1.5 million died of HIV/AIDS. Hopefully these stats, putting obesity as a leading cause of death, will motivate individuals and countries to put in a stronger effort in trying to lose weight.