Home » Shock study shows extent of the obesity epidemic – how you can counteract it

Shock study shows extent of the obesity epidemic – how you can counteract it

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Shock study shows extent of the obesity epidemic – how you can counteract it

Obesity is now a bigger health problem than malnutrition. This is what a new study shows. Why this is fatal – and how you can counteract it.

It’s a sad record: the number of people who are severely overweight has passed the one billion mark worldwide, a global analysis shows. Since 1990, the proportion of obese adults has doubled or tripled, and among children and adolescents it has even quadrupled. It no longer only affects people in industrialized countries, but also increasingly in poorer regions. In contrast, malnutrition has declined worldwide, as the team reports in “The Lancet”.

Both overweight and underweight can damage health in many ways and are therefore relevant risk factors. Obesity, for example, often leads to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver damage or cancer. In recent decades, the proportion of overweight people in Germany and many other Western countries has increased significantly, and children and young people are also increasingly affected. In many poorer countries, however, malnutrition was considered the main problem.

Global evaluation of BMI

Scientists from the “NCD Risk Factor Collaboration” – an association of over 1,500 researchers – have now analyzed in more detail how these two forms of malnutrition have developed worldwide. To do this, they compared health data from 222 million people from almost 200 countries from 1990 to 2022. These included 158 million adults over the age of 20 and 63 million children and adolescents between the ages of five and 19. According to the researchers, the samples are representative of the respective population and cover around 99 percent of the world‘s population.

The researchers analyzed the measurement data on height and weight and used them to calculate the body mass index (BMI), which serves as a key figure for the classification into underweight, normal weight and overweight. become adults

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Those with a BMI of 30 or more are classified as severely overweight or obese and those with a BMI of 18.5 or more are classified as underweight.

For children and adolescents, the exact BMI classification depends on age and gender, as their growth occurs in several spurts. The deviation from the mean BMI value was therefore crucial for adolescents.

Overweight is increasing, underweight is becoming less common

The analysis showed that in 2022 more than a billion people worldwide very overweight were – a new record. Of these, 879 million adults are affected

504 million women and
374 million men .

This corresponds to 19 percent and 14 percent of all adults of the respective gender. This means that the number of Obese since 1990

at men tripled and at Women doubled .

The analysis revealed a reverse trend in underweight, which now affects fewer people worldwide: The Percentage of underweight adults halved, so that 2022 only

183 million women and
164 million men

under malnutrition left


seven percent of women and
six percent of men .

Similar development in children and adolescents

The picture for children and young people was similar to that for adults: around 159 million of them recently had one worldwide greatly increased BMI including

65 million girls and
94 million guys .

That corresponds to around

seven percent of adolescent girls and
nine percent of adolescent boys,

as the researchers report. The number of children and young people with obesity has quadrupled since 1990 and has risen even faster than among adults.

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Between 1990 and 2022, the proportion of underweight children and adolescents fell, albeit somewhat more slowly than among adults. The number of undernourished people fell

in girls fell by about a fifth to now 77 million and
in boys by about a third to now 108 million .

That corresponds to one share

von eight percent underweight Girl and
ten percent underweight Boys .

Trend among children follows that of adults

Overall, according to the analysis, people in all age groups and almost all countries have become fatter in recent decades. The global trend towards obesity continues. Although the trend continues to vary depending on age and gender, it has become increasingly similar between the groups, as predicted in previous studies.

“It is very worrying that the obesity epidemic that was seen in adults across much of the world in 1990 is now being reflected in school-age children and adolescents,” said senior author Majid Ezzati from Imperial College London on the findings. The reason for this could be that adolescents, like adults, are increasingly eating out of the house and eating more processed foods, the researchers suspect.

Obesity replaces malnutrition as the main problem

Together, these developments have meant that obesity now affects more people than malnutrition in most countries around the world.

How to combat dangerous obesity

“This study highlights the importance of preventing and managing obesity from childhood to adulthood through nutrition, physical activity and appropriate care,” added Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. He sees governments and communities as well as national health authorities as having a duty to curb obesity through appropriate guidelines. But this also requires “the cooperation of the private sector, which must be responsible for the health effects of its products,” he says, referring to food manufacturers.

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The so-called visceral or internal abdominal fat is particularly dangerous if you are overweight. “Inner abdominal fat is not a simple energy store, but a ticking time bomb for health,” explains Jens Aberle, president and medical director at the Obesity Center at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf, in a press release from the German Obesity Society (DAG). “What many people don’t know is that the fat in the abdominal area is like its own organ. It produces hormones and substances that promote inflammation and thus weaken the immune system.” According to DAG, in Germany one in three people has a significantly increased waist circumference.

Diet is the biggest lever for reducing visceral abdominal fat, as nutritionist Matthias Riedl emphasizes to FOCUS online. He advises:

eat low in sugar, especially low in fructose, with little refined flour, around 500 grams of vegetables per day, nuts because they provide valuable protein and healthy fats; the latter also applies to olive, rapeseed, nut and fish oils

Exercise also helps eliminate visceral belly fat. A rule of thumb:

Strength training several times a week and cardio training to burn fat for 45 to 60 minutes several times a week

Quelle: The Lancet

By Claudia Krapp

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