Tue | Jan 22, 2019

World getting too fat – study

Published:Saturday | November 22, 2014 | 12:00 AMAnastasia Cunningham
Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer An obese person walking the street of Kingston on Thursday.

OBESITY IS now reaching crisis proportions, accounting for approximately five per cent of all global deaths, with an economic impact of approximately US$2 trillion, and it will require immediate and sustainable interventions, stated a new report released yesterday.

The 2014 McKinsey Global Institute Overcoming Obesity: An Initial Economic Analysis also noted that today, more than 2.1 billion people - close to 30 per cent of the global population - are overweight or obese. That is nearly an estimated two and a half times the number of people in the world - adults and children - who are undernourished.

The report stated that the obesity problem is getting worse, and rapidly, and that if the growth rate in the prevalence continues on its current trajectory, almost half of the world's adult population is projected to be overweight or obese by 2030.

Obesity has been listed as one of the top three global social burdens generated by human beings, third behind 'smoking', and 'armed violence, war and terrorism'.


Earlier this year, Dr Kevin Harvey, acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, had revealed that obesity was the most prevalent chronic disorder in Jamaica and the number of obese persons in Jamaica was alarmingly high, particularly among adult women.

"Obesity ultimately leads to chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke and cancer. And NCDs account for 70 per cent of all deaths in the country," Harvey noted.

According to the most recent World Bank study, 60 per cent of Jamaicans aged 35-54 were either overweight or obese. It also revealed that 70 per cent of Jamaican women were overweight, 80 per cent of whom were in the 35-54 age group. From as early as adolescence, more Caribbean women are overweight than men.

Abdominal obesity is seen in 36.2 per cent of Jamaicans, compared to 41 per cent and 45 per cent, respectively, of women in St Lucia and Barbados.

Noting that obesity significantly decreases one's life expectancy, particularly doubling the mortality rate among women, Harvey said the problem affects all social classes.

He said improper diet and an inactive lifestyle are the main contributors to this problem.

"We would really like to see Jamaicans start looking at their diet in a more sensible way to reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt, and, therefore, pay attention to their calorie intake.

"Reduction in the use of alcohol is also key, while increasing the consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grain. There also needs to be an increase in regular physical activity. Gaining weight is far easier than losing it, so 'prevention is much better than cure'," Harvey said.

The World Health Organization estimates that 2.8 million global deaths a year are attributable to high body mass index on a base of 59 million total global deaths per year. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index over 30.