More than 14 million children in India are overweight, obese or suffer health problems because of their weight, a new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found.

Globally, over 2 billion people are overweight or suffer from obesity or obesity-related illnesses, but China and India lead the way when it comes to obese children, said the report, an analysis of which was carried in CNN. In China, 15.3 million children were found to be obese. Overall, a one-third of the world’s population is carrying excess weight, largely fueled by rapid urbanization, poor dietary patterns or conditions, and generally reduced physical activity due to advancement of technology and health science.

The USA has the greatest percentage of obese children and young adults, at 13%, while Egypt led in terms of adult obesity, with almost 35%, among the 195 countries and territories studied by the team behind the report. While 2.2 billion people were obese or overweight in 2015, more than 710 million of them were classed as obese, with 5% of all children and 12% of adults fitting into this category.

Greater Risk

With this surge in the obese and overweight population, the risk of deaths linked to being overweight, such as cardiovascular disease increases exponentially. In fact, almost 40% of the 4 million dying as a result of their higher body mass index – during the course of this study – were not yet obese. So, the deaths are not simply linked to obese conditions, but are also occurring among those considered overweight. This impacts any individuals whose body mass index or BMI is 25 to 29.9 (overweight) or anyone with a BMI over 30 (obese). While body mass index is not the clearest indicator of bad health, it’s generally well regarded in determining state of body weight.

“People who shrug off weight gain do so at the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions,” Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said in a statement. He added: “Those half-serious New Year’s resolutions to lose weight should become year-round commitments to lose weight and prevent future weight gain.”

USA's obese population has grown at an alarming rate
Increased availability, accessibility, and affordability of energy dense foods, has led to weight gain among different populations

The Numbers

The study tracked data from 68.5 million people between 1980 and 2015 to explore trends related to overweight and obesity issues. The numbers are chilling – Obesity-affected population has doubled since 1980 in 73 countries, and continues to rise despite greater awareness in the current day. Obesity levels were higher among women than men across all age groups.

Despite a smaller population than India or China, the United States had the greatest number of obese adults, with 79.4 million (35% of the population), followed by China with 57.3 million. At 1% of the population, Bangladesh and Vietnam had the lowest obesity rates among the countries considered in the study.

Aim for Weight Loss

“Changes in the food environment and food systems are probably major drivers,” the researchers wrote, adding, “Increased availability, accessibility, and affordability of energy dense foods, along with intense marketing of such foods, could explain excess energy intake and weight gain among different populations.”

Further, they posit that reduced levels of physical activity or lack of opportunity or access to fitness facilities thanks to increased urbanization are potential causes.”We need to control the consequences of obesity much better globally and help people who are obese lose weight. That’s where we need research and public health interventions,” the researchers concluded.

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