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More than half a billion people are obese

The problem of obesity has become acute in recent years.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the worldwide prevalence of obesity has more than doubled between 1980 and 2008. In 1980, globally, 5% of men and 8% women were obese. In 2008, these figures rose to 10% and 14% respectively. This corresponds to 205 million men and 297 million women over the age of 20 being obese – a total of more than half a billion adults worldwide.

Regarding the global distribution, the prevalence of overweight and obesity were highest in the Americas (including Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the U.S., Uruguay, etc. with overall 62% for overweight in both sexes, and 26% for obesity) and lowest in the South East Asia (including India,Indonesia, Thailand, etc. with 14% overweight in both sexes and 3% for obesity).

Overall, the prevalence of overweight in high income and upper middle income countries was more than double that of low and lower middle income countries while the difference more than triples for obesity from 7% in both sexes in lower middle income countries to 24% in upper middle income countries.

The problem is also more apparent in women.

In Europe, Eastern Mediterranean (which includes Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia,Tunisia and United Arab Emirates) and the Americas, over 50% of women were overweight. For these regions, roughly half of overweight women are obese (23% in Europe, 24% in the Eastern Mediterranean, 29% in the Americas).

Women's obesity was significantly higher than men's, with the exception of high income countries where it was similar. In low and lower middle income countries such as those in Africa, South East Asia and some Eastern Mediterranean countries, obesity among women was approximately double that among men.

Overweight and obesity lead to adverse metabolic effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance. In addition, risks of coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cancer of the breast, colon, prostate, endometrium, kidney and gall bladder increase steadily with increasing body mass index (BMI) (a measure of weight relative to height).

As a result of being overweight or obese, globally, at least 2.8 million people die each year.

There are a number of factors contributing to overweight and obesity. One factor is the excessive consumption of high-energy foods, such as processed foods that are high in fats and sugars, which promotes obesity compared to the regular consumption of low-energy foods such as fruits and vegetables.

Actually, according to WHO, 1.7 million (2.8%) of deaths worldwide are attributable to low fruit and vegetable consumption. Adequate consumption of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk for cardiovascular diseases, stomach cancer and colorectal cancer.

Another factor affecting our body weight is physical activity which is a key determinant of energy expenditure and thus fundamental to energy balance and weight control.

However, it was estimated that globally in 2008, about one-third (31%) of adults aged 15 or above were insufficiently active (men 28% and women 34%).

Global distribution of people with insufficient physical activity matched well with global distribution of overweight and obesity. It was highest in the Americas and the Eastern Mediterranean Region. In both these regions, almost 50% of women were insufficiently active, while the prevalence for men was 40% in the Americas and 36% in Eastern Mediterranean. The South East Asian Region showed the lowest percentages (15% for men and 19% for women). Overall, men were more active than women hence less likely being overweight or obesity.

by S. C.
20 may 2011, Food & Fun > Health

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