March 4th, 2013
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The Guardian has provided some very informative graphs of the global obesity picture by region and gender, using World Health Organization data from 2002 to 2010. With a couple of exceptions, all slopes show increasing rates of obesity, but some slope downward and there is great diversity in the rate of change.
December 14th, 2012
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CNN International is reporting that a ground-breaking study in The Lancet on the Global Burden of Disease indicates that obesity is a greater health crisis than hunger and the leading cause of disabilities worldwide.
October 15th, 2012
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So how big an effect is physical inactivity? We hear all the time how terrible physical inactivity is but just how bad. Now comes an answer. Some 39 collaborators, part of the Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group have published an analysis of the burden of physical inactivity on disease and life expectancy.
The researchers calculated population attributable fractions associated with physical inactivity “using conservative assumptions for each of the major non-communicable diseases by country, to estimate how much disease could be averted if physical inactivity were eliminated.”
They estimated that, worldwide, physical inactivity causes, for coronary heart disease, between 3.2% in southeast Asia to 7/8% in the eastern Mediterranean. For type 2 diabetes, physical inactivity contributes 7%, 10% of breast cancer and 10% of colon cancer. “Inactivity,” they calculate, “causes 9% or more of premature mortality or more than 5.3 million of the 57 million deaths that occurred worldwide in 2008. If physical inactivity were eliminated, life expectancy of the world’s population would increase by 0.68 years (range of 0.41-0.95).
That’s it? 8 months? Well, that’s for both the active and inactive population. If you look at just having the physically inactive reach recommended levels of physical fitness, it is estimated that inactive people would gain 1.3 to 3.7 years from age 50 on in the United States. In East Asia, life expectancy from age 30 increased by 2.6 to 4.2 years. That’s a bit more meaningful. PubMed: Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide
October 15th, 2012
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In 1986, China had no obesity epidemic in infants and preschool children. But by 2006, obesity prevalence had reached 4.1% in boys and 2.7% in girls, a 280% increase. The study had a couple of interesting findings. First, prevalence among boys was increasing much faster than among girls, contrary to studies from the West and even Japan. Second, they observed an increase mainly among pre-school children but among infants. They note that exclusive breast-feeding for infants below six months has declined from 53.5% in 1995 to 32.8% in 2005. However, there was no difference between the obesity and control groups. Finally, family history of obesity was identified as a significant risk factor. PubMed:Secular trends in prevalence of obesity in infants and preschool children in China
October 9th, 2012
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What is the Weight of the Nations? Earlier in the year, the CDC hosted a conference, the Weight of the Nation. Now come researchers Sarah Catherine Walpole and colleagues from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who have assessed global human biomass, its distribution by regions and by proportions attributable to overweight and obesity. Their findings are, well, a ‘gut-check,’ (if you don’t mind the metaphor.) The numbers are staggering.
They note that more than a billion adults are overweight and, in all regions of the world, the entire population distribution is moving upwards.
So, they calculated that, in 2005, the global human biomass was approximately 287 million tons, of which 15 million tons was attributable to overweight. Biomass due to obesity was 3.5 million tons, equal to 56 million people of average body mass. North America has 6% of the world population but 34% of the biomass due to obesity. Asia has 61% of the world population but 13% of the biomass due to obesity.
One ton of human biomass equates to approximately 12 adults in North America, 17 adults in Asia. According to the authors, “The average BMI in USA in 2005 was 28.7. If all countries had the same age-sex BMI distribution as the USA, total human biomass would increase by 58 million tonnes, a 20% increase in global biomass and the equivalent of 935 million people of world average body mass in 2005. This increase in biomass would increase energy requirements by 261 kcal/day/adult, which is equivalent to the energy requirement of 473 million adults. Biomass due to obesity would increase by 434%”. In contrast, they note that if all countries had the same BMI distribution as Japan, total biomass would fall by 14.6 million tons, a 5% reduction in global biomass or the mass equivalent of 235 million people of world average body mass. This would decrease energy requirements by an average of 59 kcal/day per adult, equivalent to the energy requirement of 107 million adults. Biomass due to obesity would be reduced by 93%.
The authors conclude that, “Increasing population fatness could have the same implication for world food energy demands as an extra half a billion people living on the earth.” See PubMed: The weight of nations: an estimation of adult human biomass
June 24th, 2012
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So here is the global obesity picture. The World Health Organization slides for age standardized BMI a women and men over 20. WHO estimates that 1 billion people are obese worldwide, increasing to 1.5 billion by 2015. It is no longer a problem in the developed world but is increasing in low and middle income countries. Only some areas which have no reporting, or have geographical or political conflicts appear not to be seeing an increase in obesity.
This graph is data from the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ) and depicts the obesity picture in the developed world. The different bars report data from 1990 to 2009, all are increasing. It is a little hard to see but all of the countries which have measured data have higher rates than self-reported data. South Korea and Japan on the far left are probably inaccurate as obesity in their societies should probably be calculated from a BMI of 25 or 27, not a BMI of 30.
Is obesity leveling off? Possibly yes in children in Australia, China, England, France, Netherlands,New Zealand, Sweden Switzerland and USA, Olds T, et al, Evidence that the prevalence of childhood overweight in plateauing: data from nine countries Int J Pediatr Obes 2011 Oct;6(5) (5-6):342-60. PubMed: Evidence prevalence childhood obesity plateauing
An historical note here. A great many analyses assume that our obesity problem began in the post-war period or at least from the 1970s. That is not quite correct. As this poorly copied graph shows, the increase in BMI can be traced back to the 1870s. This is from The Changing Body by a number of economists, including one Nobel Prize winner, Robert Fogel, Roderick Floud, Bernard Harris and Sok Chul Hong.
Another paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research shows a similar timeline.
What are the projections?
The OECD projections for the selected developed nations to 2020.
The point is: all lines rise to the right: increased levels of adiposity throughout the population.
Is obesity leveling off? Possibly yes in children in Australia, China, England, France, Netherlands,New Zealand, Sweden Switzerland and USA, Olds T, et al, Evidence that the prevalence of childhood overweight in plateauing: data from nine countries Int J Pediatr Obes 2011 Oct;6(5) (5-6):342-60. PubMed: Evidence prevalence childhood obesity plateauing.
Finucane et al found that between 1980 and 2008, mean BMI worldwide increased by 0·4 kg/m(2) per decade for men and 0·5 kg/m(2) per decade for women. National BMI change for women ranged from non-significant decreases in 19 countries to increases of more than 2·0 kg/m(2) per decade in nine countries in Oceania. Male BMI increased in all but eight countries, by more than 2 kg/m(2) per decade in Nauru and Cook Islands. Male and female BMIs in 2008 were highest in some Oceania countries, reaching 33·9 kg/m(2) (32·8-35·0) for men and 35·0 kg/m(2) (33·6-36·3) for women in Nauru. Female BMI was lowest in Bangladesh (20·5 kg/m(2), 19·8-21·3) and male BMI in Democratic Republic of the Congo 19·9 kg/m(2) (18·2-21·5), with BMI less than 21·5 kg/m(2) for both sexes in a few countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and east, south, and southeast Asia. The USA had the highest BMI of high-income countries. In 2008, an estimated 1·46 billion adults (1·41-1·51 billion) worldwide had BMI of 25 kg/m(2) or greater, of these 205 million men (193-217 million) and 297 million women (280-315 million) were obese. Lancet: Finucane_global_bmi increases
May 3rd, 2012
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What does the US have in common with Kenya, Turkey, Thailand, East Timor and Honduras? Answer: high rates – around 12% – of preterm births, according to a new study from the World Health Organization. Most European countries and Canada have rates around 7% to9%. The report notes, “Underlying maternal conditions (e.g. renal, disease, hypertension, obesity and diabetes) increase the risk of maternal complications (e.g., pre-eclampsia) and medically-indicated preterm birth. The worldwide epidemic of obesity and diabetes is, thus, likely to become an increasingly important contributor to global preterm birth. In one region in the United Kingdom, 17% of all babies born to diabetic mother were preterm, more than double the rate in the general population.
November 22nd, 2011
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Simulation model predicts increased health care costs and utilization in rising obese populations in the United States and the United Kingdom, predicting 65 million more obese in the US and 11 million more in the UK, meaning 6 to 8.5 million cases of diabetes, 5.7 to 7.3 million cases of heart disease, 492,000 to 669,000 additional cases of cancer in the US and UK combined. The combined health care costs increases are $48-66 billion per year in the US and by £1·9-2 billion per year in the United Kingdom. Health and economic burden of the projected obesity t… [Lancet. 2011] – PubMed – NCBI