Planet Girth: Over ONE BILLION people worldwide are now obese

GENEVA, Switzerland — Planet Earth has a weight problem. New research reveals that one in eight people globally are obese. According to the study, there are now over one billion people living with obesity worldwide. That means obesity rates have more than doubled over the past three decades and quadrupled among adolescents and children (ages 5-19) during that same period. The data also indicates nearly half of all adults (43%) were overweight in 2022.

On the other end of the spectrum, rates of global undernutrition have actually declined over the past 30 years or so. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) still stresses that undernutrition remains a major public challenge in many areas, especially locations in South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Nations showing the highest combined underweight and obesity rates in 2022 included island nations in the Pacific and the Caribbean, as well as countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Malnutrition, in all its forms, includes undernutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight), inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight, and obesity. Estimates show that undernutrition is responsible for half of the deaths of children under five on a global scale. Obesity, on the other hand, shows a causal link to numerous noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and some cancers.

This study was put together by the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC), in collaboration with the World Health Organization. Study authors analyzed weight and height measurements from over 220 million people five years of age and older — this included 63 million children between five and 19 and 158 million adults 20 and older. The data represented over 190 countries. Over 1,500 researchers contributed to this project, which focused on body mass index (BMI) as a marker of measuring how obesity and underweight rates have changed worldwide between 1990 and 2022.

“This new study highlights the importance of preventing and managing obesity from early life to adulthood, through diet, physical activity, and adequate care, as needed,” says Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, in a media release.

“Getting back on track to meet the global targets for curbing obesity will take the work of governments and communities, supported by evidence-based policies from WHO and national public health agencies. Importantly, it requires the cooperation of the private sector, which must be accountable for the health impacts of their products.”

Obesity: Doctor measuring obese man's stomach.
According to the study, there are now over one billion people living with obesity worldwide. (© Kurhan –

3 key findings from the research:

  • Between 1990-2022, global obesity rates more than quadrupled among girls (1.7% to 6.9%) and boys (2.1% to 9.3%), with increases noted in nearly all countries. The overall number of both children and adolescents affected by obesity in 2022 was nearly 160 million (65 million girls and 94 million boys), in comparison to just 31 million in 1990.
  • Obesity rates among adults more than doubled among women (8.8% to 18.5%) and nearly tripled in men (4.8% to 14.0%) over the last three decades. In all, researchers estimate close to 880 million adults lived with obesity in 2022 (504 million women, 374 million men).
  • Conversely, the proportion of children and adolescents affected by underweight declined by roughly one fifth in girls and more than a third in boys. For adults, the proportion of those affected by underweight more than halved over the same time period.

“It is very concerning that the epidemic of obesity that was evident among adults in much of the world in 1990 is now mirrored in school-aged children and adolescents. At the same time, hundreds of millions are still affected by undernutrition, particularly in some of the poorest parts of the world. To successfully tackle both forms of malnutrition it is vital we significantly improve the availability and affordability of healthy, nutritious foods,” says senior author Professor Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London.

The 2022 World Health Assembly saw Member States adopt the WHO Acceleration plan to stop obesity, which is a decision that supports country-level action through 2030. Today, 31 governments have implemented the plan.

The plan’s key pillars include:

  • Actions to support healthy practices from day one, such as breastfeeding promotion, protection, and support.
  • Regulations on harmful food and beverage marketing practices targeting children.
  • School food and nutrition policies, such as initiatives aimed at regulating sales of products high in fats, sugars and salt in proximity of schools.
  • Fiscal and pricing policies to promote healthy diets.
  • Nutrition labelling policies.
  • Public education and awareness campaigns for both healthy diets and exercise.
  • Standards for physical activity in schools.
  • The integration of obesity prevention and management services into primary health care.

“There are significant challenges in implementing policies aimed at ensuring affordable access to healthy diets for all and creating environments that promote physical activity and overall healthy lifestyles for everyone,” notes Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Nutrition and Food Safety Department and one of the co-authors of the study. “Countries should also ensure that health systems integrate the prevention and management of obesity into the basic package of services.”

Researchers add that solving the problem of undernutrition will require multi-sectoral action in agriculture, social protection and health, the reduction of food insecurity, improved access to clean water and sanitation, and guaranteed universal access to essential nutrition interventions all over the world.

The study is published in The Lancet.

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John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

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  1. People know better. I have no sympathy. You don’t have to eat until you are stuffed….or every few hours. Eat three meals per day, stick to about 1800 calories and be done with it. It’s fuel….nothing else.

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