Conducted in 195 countries over a 35-year period, the research presented at a conference in Stockholm on Monday is billed as the most comprehensive carried out to date on the subject of obesity.
The researchers estimated more than 107 million children and 603 million adults are obese.
Percentages of children who were obese were lower than adults, but the rate at which their numbers have increased was greater, signifying more risk in the future if nothing is done to curb the problem.
More than two billion adults and children are suffering from health problems in the world due to their weight, says a team of 2,300 experts led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE), based at the University of Washington in Seattle.
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"We have more processed food, more energy-dense food, more intense marketing of food products, and these products are more available and more accessible", the study's lead author, Dr. Ashkan Afshin, told the New York Times.
The study was based on the latest data provided by the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, which tracks the impact of more than 300 types of pathology and injury in 133 countries. They made assumptions and used mathematical modeling to fill in gaps. That was "the most worrisome finding" in the study, according to an editorial that accompanied the report.
The prevalence of obesity has doubled since 1980 in more than 70 countries and has continuously increased in most other nations. Countries where obesity did not increase significantly included Afghanistan, Bulgaria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the USA about 17 percent of children and 38 percent of adults are obese in the US, according to earlier CDC estimates.
Obesity levels were higher among women than men across all age groups, which correlates with previous findings on obesity. For example, the fastest growing rates of unhealthily high BMIs could be seen in Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, and Mali.
-But the United States had the largest number of obese adults in 2015, with 79 million. Egypt topped the list for adult obesity at about 35 percent, while the lowest rates were in Bangladesh and Vietnam, respectively, at 1 percent.
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China with 15.3 million and India with 14.4 million had the highest numbers of obese children; the United States with 79.4 million and China with 57.3 million had the highest numbers of obese adults in 2015. India had 14 million.
The largest contributors to weight-related deaths between 1980 and 2015 were heart disease, diabetes, kidney diseases, cancers and musculoskeletal disorders.
Some good news is that improvements in medications and other kinds of health-care seem to be helping people survive longer even if they have weight-related health problems.
"Excess body weight is one of the most challenging public health problems of our time, affecting almost one in every three people", said Dr. Ashkan Afshin, the paper's lead author and an assistant professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Unfortunately, "there is no single simple solution for the problem of overweight and obesity", he said.
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