For all the talk about the world getting smaller, it’s also getting bigger.
According to a recent study in the Lancet, a British medical journal, the worldwide prevalence of people who are overweight or obese has increased by 27.5 percent in adults and 47.1 percent in children over the past three decades.
Almost a third of the world’s population, 2.1 billion people, is fat. “Parts of the world are quite literally eating themselves to death,” the director-general of the World Health Organization says.
As one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States, obesity leads to complicated and expensive diseases: diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. America has the largest number of obese individuals in the world, the study found.
The problem isn’t abating. No country in the survey saw a major decline in obesity. The trend comes in an era of easy transportation, processed foods, and less exercise.
Public obesity prevention programs help, but individual responsibility in the areas of diet and exercise is equally important. Reducing the number of people who are overweight is vital because of the economic consequences of obesity — nearly $190 billion a year in the United States.
A federal report this year noted a drop in obesity among American children from ages 2 to 5. It seemed as if the tide had turned in the public health campaign against the disease.
But for such a widespread disease, it’s clear more needs to be done.