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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Ballooning Global Problem of Obesity on Health Outcomes

"Its global implications are huge."
"This study shows what we know: No country in the globe has reduced overweight or obesity levels. This is astounding given the huge health and economic costs linked with overweight and obesity."
"The future health and economic burden facing all these countries is immense."
Barry Popkin, professor of nutrition, University of North Carolina
Obesity in the US Fast Facts
"The change in physical activity preceded the global increase in obesity."
"We have more processed food, more energy-dense food, more intense marketing of food products, and these products are more available and more accessible. The food environment seems to be the main driver of obesity."
"Most of the obese people are dying because of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. [Somewhat mitigated in the U.S.] and other developed nations [thanks to drugs]. But we cannot have all people on drugs."
"Ideally, we want to go to the root causes and address the problem of overeating."
"[To the present, no country] has been able to control the food environment, which seems to be the main driver of obesity."
Dr. Ashkan Afshin, assistant professor, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington
Children of obese parents at risk of developmental delays, says study
"What people eat is the key factor in whether they become obese or not."
"It is all very nice to talk about the need to eat less unhealthy foods and more healthy foods, [but] unhealthy foods cost less; healthier foods often cost more."
"People eat what they can afford."
Adam Drewnowsk, director, Center for Public Health Nutrition, University of Washington
Getty Images

According to a study -- whose lead author was Dr. Afshin -- published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the fundamental problem of population obesity has now swept the entire globe, with even geographic regions like Africa, historically hit by food shortages, also weighing in on obesity in their populations. This is a study that was funded by the Gates Foundation, for the purpose of studying 195 countries that comprise the vast bulk of the world population, to discover that obesity has doubled in no fewer than 73 countries.

Among those countries is Turkey, Venezuela and Bhutan which saw a huge leap in obesity, from 1980 to 2015, and where gross overweight populations elsewhere as well "continuously increased in most other countries". No fewer than 1,800 data sets accessed world-wide helped the researchers to conclude that excess weight had a vital role in four million deaths occurring in 2015 attributed to heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and additional factors. Per capita death rate increased 28 percent since 1995, with 40 percent of those deaths occurring among those overweight, yet not obese.

Close to 604 million adults worldwide are classified as obese, with a body mass index of 30 or higher. While among children, obesity rates appear to be increasing at a swifter rate in many countries even than the rise in adult obesity. Figures for the United States put 12.5 percent of children in the obese category, an increase from 1980 when that percentage stood at 5. The United States, taking into account both children and adults, distinguishes itself with the largest increase in percentile points of any other country, representing a leap of 16 percentage points to 26.5 percent of population overall.

Nutrition scientists generally praised the extent, breadth and quality of the study, along with the huge significance to world health, of its message. While the study reported numbers of obesity level demographics, it did not focus on causation. Still, the authors of the study pointed out that accessibility of low-cost, poor nutrient-quality packaged and processed foods represented a major factor in the startling rise of obesity, at the same time discounting the allied theory that more sedentary lifestyles with lack of physical exercise having that great a bearing on obesity levels.

Following the United States, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Egypt represented particularly significant percentile leaps of obese populations. Even so, countries still lower as an overall percentage of obesity in the population, had growing rates of obesity at a much faster level; in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia, including China. Fewer than 1 percent of the Chinese population was characterized as obese in 1980, but a fivefold increase has taken place, with over 5 percent represented in the obese category.

Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea-Bissau distinguished themselves with the fastest growth in obesity levels. Burkina Faso was crowned with the fastest growth of obesity in the world, where in 1980 around one-third of a percent of its population was obese, to the point now, where its obesity rate has risen to represent close to 7 percent of the population. And while in wealthy, socially stable countries medications prescribed to help deal with obesity's effects (hypertension, for example) the death rates linked to obesity have fallen.

Such remedies, as to resort to medications to deal with the morbidly lethal effects of obesity are impractical in developing countries where their rates of deaths associated with obesity are growing, with no  hint of a solution in sight

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