Obesity has overtaken hunger around the world as the biggest threat to global health as a new report shows that many of the illnesses and complications being dealt with are tied to a higher body mass index.
The “Global Burden of Disease” report compares data from the last 20 years showing a worldwide 82 percent increase in obesity, causing researchers to suggest that preventing noncommunicable diseases may be preferable to simply treating them.
Thanks to immunization many children are avoiding previously life-threatening diseases, but as more countries adopt a “western lifestyle,” the impacts of obesity are being felt around the world in the same way they are in America.
The report shows that nearly all countries are beginning to show the strains of obesity as it affects health and outpaces hunger as the cause for many of the growing health issues facing the planet’s population.
“The world is now obese and we're seeing the impact of that," said Ali Mokdad, co-author of the study and professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
Diseases such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease are topping lists of ailments people suffer during the years of their lives spent sick or injured, the report said, and all are both often caused by obesity and are preventable.
"The so-called 'Western lifestyle' is being adapted all around the world, and the impacts are all the same," Mokdad said.
"All these problems are tied to obesity.We're even seeing a large percentage of people suffering back pain now. If we could lower the obesity rates, we'd see the numbers of noncommunicable diseases and pain decrease as well," he added.
Five hundred researchers from 50 countries gathered and studied data collected between 1990 and 2010. They found that while men now live about 10 years longer than projected in 1990, and women live 12 years longer, they also are spending much of that time in pain, the report said.
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