The Health Section

Global obesity on track to surpass 18% by 2025

Obesity rates are growing across the globe, so much so that researchers of a recent study of adults 18 and older deemed it virtually impossible to keep the obesity rate at 2010 levels by 2025. The study found that in less than 10 years, at least 18% of men and women worldwide will be considered obese by current standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO defines overweight as a person having a body-mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 25. If a person has a BMI of 30 or higher, WHO identifies them as being obese.

In almost every country included in the study, men and women have a less than 10 percent chance of achieving the goal set by the World Health Organization.

The interactive graphic below was created using data from the study by the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration and published in The Lancet in April 2016. Researchers compared the BMI among men and women in 200 countries and territories from 1975 and 2014.

Blue dots indicate the number of obese men and women and red dots indicate the number of severely obese individuals.

If post-2000 trends continue, every country in the world has a less than 50 percent probability of meeting the global obesity target set by the World Health Organization.

The researchers found that if the current trend continues, 18 percent of men and 21 percent of women in the world will be obese according to current WHO definitions. Six percent of men and 9 percent of women will be severely obese.

How is obesity measured?

BMI is a measurement based on height and weight that applies to an adult. Although a BMI measurement doesn’t take into account the health differences of body fat and lean body mass, BMI is still a useful tool for doctors to assess risk for certain diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems and certain cancers.  Other methods may provide a more accurate measurement, such as a body adiposity index (BAI). BAI is a method of measuring the amount of body fat in humans. Researchers noted they did not compare BAI measurements in the study because it was not measured consistently in databases.

Trying to lose weight

It’s never too late to start being healthier. Most everyone can benefit from eating a healthier diet, getting more sleep and being more physically active. For those wanting to lose weight, lifestyle changes are the first and most important step, according to Edmund Pezalla, M.D., M.P.H., vice president and national medical director of Pharmaceutical Policy and Strategy at Aetna. Consulting with a doctor or health professional is a good place to start any personal plan to achieve better health.