In the world, one in eight people is affected by obesity, according to a study conducted by Francesco Branca of the World Health Organization, along with his colleagues. Between 1990 and 2022, obesity rates more than doubled among adults and quadrupled among children and adolescents worldwide.

More than one billion people, or approximately one in eight, suffer from obesity, making it the most common form of malnutrition in nearly all countries. In this regard, Branca and colleagues collected data from over 3,600 studies published in the last 35 years to understand how obesity rates have changed between 1990 and 2022. The studies included nearly 230 million people in 197 countries. Researchers calculated the body mass index (BMI) of participants, a biometric data expressed as the ratio of an individual’s weight to height and used as an indicator of healthy weight, to estimate how obesity rates have changed over time. The research showed that the global prevalence of obesity more than doubled among adults aged 20 and older and quadrupled in children and adolescents aged 5 to 19. In 2022, obesity rates among women and adolescent girls increased in about 93% of countries.

The same holds true for adolescent boys in all countries except five. Only one country, France, did not record an increase in obesity rates among men. Adult obesity rates increased most in Caribbean, Middle Eastern, and North African countries. Meanwhile, the largest increases in childhood and adolescent obesity occurred in Brunei, Chile, and island nations in Polynesia, Micronesia, and the Caribbean. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancer, and various other health problems.

“It’s very concerning that the obesity epidemic, which was evident among adults in much of the world in 1990, is now reflected in school-age children and adolescents,” said Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London, senior author of the study. Researchers believe that processed foods high in calories and sugars are partly responsible for the surge in obesity rates; this is also because over the past few decades, the availability and ease of obtaining these refined and unhealthy products have increased worldwide.

“However, attention to individual behaviors, such as diet and exercise, has had and will continue to have little impact on the prevalence of obesity,” Branca said. “To truly prevent and manage obesity, governments worldwide must implement policies to make healthy foods and physical activity more accessible and convenient,” Branca added.

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