New studies documenting national obesity rates and trends from the past year reinforce what we already know: obesity rates are alarmingly high; sustained, meaningful reductions have not yet been achieved nationally except possibly among our youngest children in low-income families; many populations continue to see steady increases in obesity; and racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities are persistent. Therefore, addressing the obesity epidemic remains imperative for ensuring the health of the nation. According to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 18.5 percent of children and 39.6 percent of adults had obesity in 2015–2016. These are the highest rates ever documented by NHANES .There were no statistically significant changes in youth or adult rates compared with the 2013–2014 survey, but rates have increased significantly since 1999–2000, when 13.9 percent of children and 30.5 percent of adults had obesity.
The prevalence of adults who are overweight or obese is on the rise — global obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. Close to 2 billion adults worldwide, or 39% of the global adult population, were considered overweight in 2016. In some of the most overweight countries, the percentage is at least double that. Of these near 2 billion overweight adults worldwide, 650 million or 13% of adults, were classified as obese.
A body mass index score, or BMI, is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the height in meters squared. The World Health Organization defines being overweight as having a body mass index of 25 or greater. Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or greater.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed World Health Organization 2016 BMI data for adults in 195 countries. In the 20 most overweight countries, at least 66% of adults have a BMI of 25 or greater.
Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop no communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. In addition to increased future risks, obese children experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, and early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects.
The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents (aged 5-17) has risen dramatically from 4% in 1975 to just over 18% in 2016. The rise has occurred more or less equally among both boys and girls: in 2016 18% of girls and 19% of boys were overweight. While just under 1% of children and adolescents were obese in 1975, nearly 7% were obese by 2016. The increase has been slightly more rapid among boys, with obesity occurring in 8% of boys and 6% of girls in 2016.
For adults, WHO defines overweight and obesity as follows:
BMI provides the most useful population-level measure of overweight and obesity as it is the same for both sexes and for all ages of adults. However, it should be considered a rough guide because it may not correspond to the same degree of fatness in different individuals. If current trends continue, 22 percent of people in the world will be obese by 2045, up from 14 percent last year, according to research presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna.
One in eight people, up from one in 11, will have type 2 diabetes—a form of the disease that generally hits in adulthood as a result of being overweight.
“These numbers underline the staggering challenge the world will face in the future in terms of numbers of people who are obese, or have type 2 diabetes, or both,” said researcher Alan Moses of Danish healthcare company Novo Nordisk’s research and development department.
“As well as the medical challenges these people will face, the costs to countries’ health systems will be enormous,” he added.
The 20 countries with the largest percentages of adults who are overweight are located almost entirely in two regions of the world: the Middle East and Oceania. Seven countries in the lower half of the most overweight nations are located in the Middle East. All 10 of the nations where the largest share of adults are overweight are Oceanic countries.