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Most comprehensive global study to date shows obesity rates climbing worldwide

The past 33 years have seen a great increase in obesity and overweight rates among adults but also, and especially, children. There has been a 28 % increase in the rate of obesity among adults but in children a startling 47% increase.  There are however major differences between regions and countries and this study shows that more than half of the world's 671 million obese individuals live in just ten countries - the USA (more than 13%), China and India (15% combined), Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany , Pakistan, and Indonesia.

The findings come from a comprehensive new analysis (funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) of the global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in adults aged 20 years and older and children and adolescents aged 2-19 years between 1980 and 2013.



In 2010, overweight and obesity were estimated to cause 3·4 million deaths, 3·9% of years of life lost, and 3·8% of disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) worldwide. The rise in obesity has led to widespread calls for regular monitoring of changes in overweight and obesity prevalence in all populations. Comparable, up-to-date information about levels and trends is essential to quantify population health effects and to prompt decision makers to prioritise action. We estimate the global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980—2013.


We systematically identified surveys, reports, and published studies (n=1769) that included data for height and weight, both through physical measurements and self-reports. We used mixed effects linear regression to correct for bias in self-reports. We obtained data for prevalence of obesity and overweight by age, sex, country, and year (n=19 244) with a spatiotemporal Gaussian process regression model to estimate prevalence with 95% uncertainty intervals (UIs).


Worldwide, the proportion of adults with a body-mass index (BMI) of 25 kg/m2 or greater increased between 1980 and 2013 from 28·8% (95% UI 28·4—29·3) to 36·9% (36·3—37·4) in men, and from 29·8% (29·3—30·2) to 38·0% (37·5—38·5) in women. Prevalence has increased substantially in children and adolescents in developed countries; 23·8% (22·9—24·7) of boys and 22·6% (21·7—23·6) of girls were overweight or obese in 2013. The prevalence of overweight and obesity has also increased in children and adolescents in developing countries, from 8·1% (7·7—8·6) to 12·9% (12·3—13·5) in 2013 for boys and from 8·4% (8·1—8·8) to 13·4% (13·0—13·9) in girls. In adults, estimated prevalence of obesity exceeded 50% in men in Tonga and in women in Kuwait, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Libya, Qatar, Tonga, and Samoa. Since 2006, the increase in adult obesity in developed countries has slowed down.


Because of the established health risks and substantial increases in prevalence, obesity has become a major global health challenge. Not only is obesity increasing, but no national success stories have been reported in the past 33 years. Urgent global action and leadership is needed to help countries to more effectively intervene.


Marie Ng, Emmanuela Gakidou et al., 2014, Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. The Lancet, DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60460-8

You can read the full study here and coverage from Science Daily here.

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04 Jun 2014
Research trails