Obesity Is Now a Bigger Global Problem Than Hunger
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Obesity Is Now a Bigger Global Problem Than Hunger

EUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The global obesity epidemic is about to get worse. In nine years, around one fifth of adults globally will be obese, a study published last week in the journal The Lancet predicts. More than one in eight are obese now.

The number of obese people now eclipses the number of people who are underweight. The report uses the clinical definition of obesity as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, while severely obese refers to a BMI of 35 or higher. Underweight is a BMI less than 18.5.

Related: US Obesity Rate Hit a Record High in 2015

“The world has transitioned from an era when underweight prevalence was more than double that of obesity, to one in which more people are obese than underweight,” the report says. It emphasizes that being underweight is still an issue in poor regions of the world, especially in South Asia and East Africa.

Looking at BMI patterns among adults from 1975 through 2014, the report found that the number of obese people has skyrocketed from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in 2014. The number is predicted to climb past 1.1 billion by 2025.

Broken down by gender, 18 percent of men and 21 percent of women will be obese by 2025. Global obesity has more than tripled among men and doubled among women over the past four decades.

Nearly one fifth of the world’s obese adults (118 million) live in just six high-income countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. The countries are also home to more than a quarter (50 million) of the world’s severely obese people. 

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One of the biggest surprises out of the report is the increasing obesity rate in China. In 1975, China was ranked 60th and 41st for severely obese men and women, respectively. By 2014, the country jumped to second for both. Additionally, China, with its population of nearly 1.4 billion people, was home to marginally more obese men and women than the U.S. in 2014.

Based on these numbers, the report says that chance that the world will hit the target established by the UN for curbing the growing obesity rate by 2025 is “virtually zero.”