Over a third of world population overweight; numbers rising

More than 2 billion adults and children globally are overweight or obese and suffer health problems because of their weight, a new study reports.

This equates to one-third of the world's population carrying excess weight, fuelled by urbanisation, poor diets and reduced physical activity.

While 2.2 billion people were obese or overweight in 2015, more than 710 million of them were classed as obese, with 5 per cent of all children and 12 per cent of adults fitting into this category.

This means more than 10 per cent of the world's population is now obese, a marked rise over the last 30 years that is leading to widespread health problems and millions of premature deaths, according to a new study, the most comprehensive done on the subject.

Published Monday in The New England Journal of Medicine, the study showed that the problem had swept the globe, including regions that have historically had food shortages, like Africa.

The study, compiled by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and funded by the Gates Foundation, looked at 195 countries, essentially the entire world's population, finding that rates of obesity at least doubled in 73 countries - including Turkey, Venezuela and Bhutan - from 1980 to 2015, and ''continuously increased in most other countries.''.

The United States has the greatest percentage of obese children and young adults, at 13 per cent, while Egypt led in terms of adult obesity, with almost 35 per cent, among the 195 countries and territories included in the study.

An increasing number globally are dying from health problems linked to being overweight, such as cardiovascular disease, said the study.

Almost 40 per cent of the 4 million dying as a result of their higher body mass index were not yet obese, highlighting that deaths are occurring almost as often in those considered overweight as those considered obese.

Body mass index is the ratio between a person's weight and height; a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, while anything over 30 is obese.

By those measures, nearly 604 million adults worldwide are obese and 108 million children, the authors reported. Obesity rates among children are rising faster in many countries than among adults.

"People who shrug off weight gain do so at their own risk - risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions," said Dr Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who worked on the study.

"Those half-serious New Year's resolutions to lose weight should become year-round commitments to lose weight and prevent future weight gain," he said in a statement.

The researchers analysed data from 68.5 million people between 1980 and 2015 to explore trends as well as figures regarding overweight and obesity rates.

Data were obtained from the most recent Global Burden of Disease study, which explores all major diseases, conditions and injuries globally by age, sex and population.

The data revealed that the number of people affected by obesity has doubled since 1980 in 73 countries, and continued to rise across most other countries included in the analysis.

Obesity levels were higher among women than men across all age groups, which correlates with previous findings on obesity.