More than half of the world's population could be overweight or obese by 2035, with childhood obesity predicted to more than double, a report from the World Obesity Federation has warned.
The report predicts that the economic impact of the condition could exceed $4.32 trillion per year by 2035, representing almost 3 per cent of global gross domestic product, if prevention and treatment measures are not improved.
More than half of the global population is expected to have a high body mass index (BMI) by the end of this period, with one in four people living with obesity, compared to one in seven today.
Childhood obesity rates are predicted to double among boys by 2035 and to increase by 125 per cent among girls, with lower income countries facing the most significant increases in obesity.
Nine of the 10 countries with the highest expected increases in obesity are low- or lower-middle-income countries in Africa and Asia.
The federation's latest World Obesity Atlas annual report calls for comprehensive national action plans to be developed to prevent and treat obesity and support those affected. It also warns that without urgent and co-ordinated action, rates of obesity will continue to rise.
The report will be presented at a high-level policy event on March 6 to UN policymakers and member states.
While obesity is often considered a problem for higher income countries, the report reveals that obesity levels are increasing most rapidly in lower income countries, which are often the least able to respond to obesity and its consequences.
What is Obesity?
Obesity is a condition characterised by excessive body fat that can have negative effects on health. Adults are generally considered obese if they have a body mass index of 30 or above.
BMI is a value derived from the mass and height of a person. The BMI is defined as the body mass divided by the square of the body height, expressed in units of kg/m².
An adult is generally considered overweight if their BMI is between 25 and 29.9.
BMI is not a perfect measure of body fatness, as it does not take into account factors such as muscle mass or body composition. However, it is a useful tool for quickly estimating a person's level of body fat and assessing their risk for certain health conditions.
Prof Louise Baur, President of the World Obesity Federation, said: “This year's Atlas is a clear warning that by failing to address obesity today, we risk serious repercussions in the future. It is particularly worrying to see obesity rates rising fastest among children and adolescents. Governments and policymakers around the world … need to look urgently at the systems and root factors that contribute to obesity, and actively involve young people in the solutions.”
Rachel Jackson Leach, Director of Science at the federation, said: “If we do not act now, we are on course to see significant increases in obesity prevalence over the next decade.”
“The greatest increases will be seen in low and lower-middle income countries, where scarce resources and lack of preparedness will create a perfect storm that will negatively impact people living with obesity the most”, she said.