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The science of nutrition and healthy eating
The science of nutrition and healthy eating

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4.2 The obesity epidemic

Next we will concentrate on adults who are overweight.

At least 2.8 million people are thought to die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions not only in high-income countries but also in low- and middle-income countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) have published a series of key facts [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] on obesity (WHO, 2018).

  • Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980.
  • In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight – of these, over 600 million were obese.
  • In 2014, 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight and 13% were obese.
  • Most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.
  • In 2013, 42 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese.
  • Obesity is preventable.

You might have noticed that the WHO puts the number of people worldwide who are overweight or obese at an even higher level than the International Food Policy Research Institute’s report published the previous year.

The health consequences of obesity and being overweight are significant. People who are overweight are more likely to have cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, diabetes, osteoarthritis and other diseases of the muscles and joints, and some cancers.

Children who are obese are more likely to have breathing difficulties and their risk of fractures is greater. They may also show early signs of high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. There are also psychological effects. Overweight children are likely to have low self-esteem and depression, and to be bullied by their peers. And they are more likely to become obese adults.