The world is getting fatter. But now a study by researchers from Imperial College London suggests we’ve reached a new milestone, with more people in the world being classified as obese than underweight for the first time.
The finding is based on the study of BMI data from nearly 20 million people in 186 different countries, recorded between 1975 to 2014. Extrapolating obesity rates from their data, the researchers claim that the number of obese people has risen from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in 2014. Meanwhile, the number of underweight people has grown from 330 million to 462 million.
The result show that 10.8 percent of men and 14.9 percent of women were classified as obese in 2014—up from 3.2 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively, in 1975. In contrast, the percentages of those being reported as underweight have dropped, from 14 percent to 9 percent among men and from 15 percent to 10 percent for women, over the the same time period. In total, the study claims that there are 41.7 million obese men and 46.1 million obese women in the US. The findings are published in The Lancet.
Of course, BMI isn’t a perfect measure to assess whether someone is overweight or not, but for now it’s what the medical profession uses, so it’s the best we have. And at any rate, we shouldn’t necessarily be taking this study personally, but instead hoping that it changes national health policies.
“We hope these findings create an imperative to shift responsibility from the individual to governments and to develop and implement policies to address obesity,” explained Professor Majid Ezzati, one of the researchers, to the BBC. “For instance, unless we make healthy food options like fresh fruits and vegetables affordable for everyone and increase the price of unhealthy processed foods, the situation is unlikely to change.”
The World Health Organization aims to ensure that obesity levels are no higher in 2025 than they were in 2010. This study, the researchers claim, suggests that will be virtually impossible.