Report Estimates 1 Billion People Worldwide Are Obese

    06 March 2024

    A new study estimates more than 1 billion people worldwide are currently living with obesity. People with obesity are considered medically overweight.

    The study, published in the medical publication The Lancet, said that one in eight people are obese. Researchers said around 43 percent of adults were overweight in 2022.

    Worldwide, obesity among adults has more than doubled since 1990, the study found. Among young people aged five to 19, the obesity rate increased by four times during the same period.

    A man walks past the New York Stock Exchange after the close of trading hours in New York City on August 17, 2009. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
    A man walks past the New York Stock Exchange after the close of trading hours in New York City on August 17, 2009. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

    "A staggering number of people are living with obesity," declared the lead writer of the study, Majid Ezzati. He is a professor at Imperial College London.

    Severe obesity is strongly linked to a long list of health problems and an early death.

    Researchers used data from more than 3,600 population studies involving 222 million people, The Lancet reported. The study "measured height and weight in representative samples of the general population," the researchers said.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement that it shared data with other international researchers and helped to create the report.

    WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the study identifies the "importance of preventing and managing obesity from early life to adulthood."

    The WHO noted that at the World Health Assembly in 2022, member states agreed to an agency plan to fight obesity. So far, 31 governments "are now leading the way" to reduce obesity by carrying out goals of the plan.

    These include government measures to enact new rules on "harmful" marketing of unhealthy food and drinks to children. In addition, governments are aiming to improve school and nutrition policies. They are also seeking price reductions for healthy foods, to increase public awareness about healthy diets and exercise and to strengthen requirements for physical activity in schools.

    Imperial College's Ezzati said that obesity rates are not rising in many wealthier nations. But they are quickly increasing in other countries. He noted that some countries have many underweight people, meaning the nations are facing what he called a "double burden" of nutrition problems.

    Francesco Branca is head of nutrition at the WHO. He told reporters, "In the past, we have been thinking of obesity as a problem of the rich. Obesity is a problem of the world."

    The research represented the first major report on the issue since 2017, with more than 1,500 scientists taking part. That report estimated around 774 million people above the age of five were living with obesity.

    Branca and Ezzati suggested that powerful new obesity drugs – such as Ozempic and Wegovy – could be helpful tools in reducing obesity. But they noted that the cost and availability of the drugs might increase inequality.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    Reuters and the World Health Organization reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    obesity – n. a medical problem of having too much body fat. It increases the risk of many other diseases and health problems

    staggering – adj. very shocking and surprising

    sample – n. a small amount of something that gives you information about the thing it was taken from

    manage – v. to deal with something successfully