Number of obese adults worldwide doubled since 1980

Apr 14, 2011

The number of obese adults has nearly doubled in two decades.

The number of obese adults worldwide reached one in 10 in 2008 - double what it was in 1980, according to research recently published in Lancet journal.

Researchers looked at records from 199 countries and territories that included BMI information for 9.1 million participants. They found that 9.8 percent of men and 13.8 percent of women were obese in 2008, up from 4.8 and 7.9 percent respectively in 1980. The U.S. was found to have the highest BMI out of high-income countries, while Japan had the lowest.

These findings were a part of an extensive analysis performed in conjunction with the World Health Organization to determine how the three major risk factors for heart conditions - obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure - have changed over the years.

A significant implication of the findings is that these types of health problems are no longer restricted to wealthy countries. "Our results show that overweight and obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are no longer Western problems or problems of wealthy nations. Their presence has shifted towards low and middle income countries, making them global problems," said Dr. Majid Ezzati, senior author of the study.

The obesity epidemic is not only contributing to an increased risk of developing certain life-threatening illnesses, but it is also causing life insurance premiums of those with the condition to rise, since it places them in an elevated risk group.  

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