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A third of the world obese

Published:Friday | May 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM
In this file photo, an overweight person is observed having a meal in London.


Almost a third of the world is now fat, and no country has been able to curb obesity rates in the last three decades, according to a new global analysis.

Researchers found more than two billion people worldwide are now overweight or obese. The highest rates were in the Middle East and North Africa, where nearly 60 per cent of men and 65 per cent of women are heavy. The United States (US) has about 13 per cent of the world's fat population, a greater percentage than any other country. China and India combined have about 15 per cent.

"It's pretty grim," said Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who led the study. He and colleagues reviewed more than 1,700 studies covering 188 countries from 1980 to 2013. "When we realised that not a single country has had a significant decline in obesity, that tells you how hard a challenge this is."

Murray said there was a strong link between income and obesity; in developing countries, as people get richer, their waistlines also tend to start bulging. In many rich countries like the US and Britain, the trend is reversed, though only slightly. Murray said scientists have noticed accompanying spikes in diabetes as obesity has risen and that rates of cancers linked to weight, like pancreatic cancer, are also rising.

childhood obesity

The new report was paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and published online yesterday in the journal, Lancet.

Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) established a high-level commission tasked with ending childhood obesity.

"Our children are getting fatter," Dr Margaret Chan, WHO's director-general, said bluntly during a speech at the agency's annual meeting in Geneva. "Parts of the world are quite literally eating themselves to death." Earlier this year, WHO said that no more than five per cent of your daily calories should come from sugar.