beer belly Graeme Bird/Flickr

Fat’s Heavy Burden

Being overweight or obese is now linked to 2.8 million deaths annually, via associated non-communicable diseases like type-2 diabetes, various cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Clearly, this is a serious problem, and addressing it will require a commitment to sustained and well-coordinated action.

ROME – Today, about 2.1 billion people, or almost 30% of the world’s population, are regarded as overweight (defined as a body mass index, or BMI, of 25 or higher) – double the number in 1980, and more than 2.5 times the number of people who are chronically hungry. In fact, according to a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute, being overweight or obese is now linked to 2.8 million deaths annually – more than those associated with being underweight – via non-communicable diseases like type-2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Clearly, this is a serious problem, and addressing it will require a commitment to sustained and well-coordinated action.

The data are unambiguous. In the United Kingdom, for example, 37% of the population is now deemed overweight, with a quarter of that group qualifying as obese (a BMI of 30 or higher). Though being overweight or obese is often perceived as accompanying wealth, the problem has disproportionately affected lower-income communities.

Moreover, in recent decades, the scourge has been spreading rapidly in many developing countries, especially the more prosperous among them. In the emerging economies, the rate of increase in the number of overweight and obese children has been more than 30% higher than that of developed countries in recent years.

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