Key Facts Related Obesity and Overweight

Here are some key facts

  • The global rate of obesity has more than tripled since 1975.
  • Over 1.9 billion adults (18 years old and older) were overweight in 2016. Nearly 650 million people were considered obese.
  • In 2016, 39% of adults over 18 were overweight, and 13% were obese.
  • A large portion of the world’s population lives where obesity is more common than underweight.
  • Thirty-nine million children younger than five years old were overweight or obese in 2020.
  • More than 340,000,000 children and teens aged 5-19 were either overweight or obese in 2016.
  • it is easy to avoid Obesity

What are the differences between obesity and overweight?

Obesity is defined as excessive or abnormal fat accumulation, which can lead to health problems.

BMI (body mass index) is a simple indicator of weight-for-height. It is often used to classify obesity and overweight in adults. It is defined as the person’s total weight in kilograms divided by his height in meters. (kg/m 0).


WHO defines overweight and obese as follows for adults:

  • BMI should be lower than 25 is considered as good. 
  • Obesity is defined as a BMI that is greater than 30.

BMI, which is the population-level measure that measures overweight and obesity, is the most reliable because it can be used for all ages and both genders. However, it is only a guide and may not be accurate for every person.

Children’s age should be taken into consideration when defining obesity and overweight.

Children below five years old

  • An overweight person has a more excellent weight-for-height ratio than the WHO Child Growth Standards median by at least two standard deviations.
  • Obesity refers to a person’s weight for height more significant than three standard deviations from the WHO Child Growth Standards median.

Children aged 5-19 years

Children aged 5-19 years are considered obese or overweight.

  • BMI-for-age that is greater than one standard deviation over the WHO Growth Reference median is considered overweight.
  • The WHO Growth Reference median is two standard deviations over obesity.

Facts about overweight and obesity

Here are some recent WHO global estimations.

  • Over 1.9 billion adults 18 years old and older were overweight in 2016. More than 650,000,000 adults were considered obese.
  • In 2016, 39% (18-year-olds and older) were overweight (39% of men, 40% of women).
  • Globally, 13% of adults (11%) and 15% (15%) were obese in 2016.
  • Between 1975 and 2016, obesity prevalence nearly tripled worldwide.

According to estimates, a staggering 38.2 million children below five years old were either overweight or obese in 2019. Although once considered a high-income problem, obesity and overweight are now a growing problem in low- and mid-income countries. This is especially true in urban areas. Since 2000, Africa’s number of overweight kids under five years old has increased by 24%. Half of all obese and overweight children aged five or under lived in Asia in 2019.

More than 340,000,000 children and teens aged 5-19 were either overweight or obese in 2016.

Childhood obesity has increased dramatically among adolescents and children aged 5-19 years. It was just 4% in 1975, and it is now just over 18%. Moreover, both boys and girls have seen similar increases: In 2016, 18% and 19% were overweight.

Although less than 1% of children and teens aged 5-19 were obese, more than 124,000,000 children and teenagers (6% for girls and 8% for boys) were obese in 2016.

Obesity and overweight are associated with more deaths than those who are underweight. In addition, there are more obese people than underweight worldwide, which is valid in all regions, except those of sub-Saharan Africa.

What causes obesity?

An energy imbalance between calories ingested and calories expended is the leading cause of obesity. Globally, the following:

  • An increased intake of energy-dense foods, high in sugar and fat;
  • Increased physical inactivity due to increasing expansion, changing modes of transport and becoming more sedentary in many forms of work.

Environmental and social changes can often lead to changes in dietary habits and physical activity.

What are the health effects of being overweight or obese?

An increased BMI is a significant risk factor for other non-communicable illnesses such as:

  • Heart disease (mainly stroke and heart disease) was the leading cause of death in 2012
  • Diabetes
  • Musculoskeletal Disorders (especially osteoarthritis – a disabling, degenerative disease of joints)
  • Certain cancers (e.g., endometrial and breast, ovarian or prostate, liver, gallbladders, kidney, colon, and lung)
Key Facts Related Obesity and Overweight
Key Facts Related Obesity and Overweight

With an increase in BMI, the risk of these non-communicable diseases rises.

An increased risk of becoming obese in childhood can lead to obesity, premature death, and disability in adulthood. In addition to higher future risks, obese children have difficulty breathing, increased risk for fractures, hypertension, and early indicators of cardiovascular disease.

Double the burden of malnutrition

Many low- and medium-income countries now face a double burden of malnutrition.

  • These countries still have to address the problem of undernutrition and infectious diseases. However, they are experiencing an upsurge in non-communicable disease risk factors like obesity and overweight, especially in urban settings.
  • It is not uncommon for undernutrition to co-exist within the same country or the same community as obesity.

Inadequate prenatal, infant, and young child nutrition are more prevalent in low- or middle-income countries. Children in low and middle-income countries are more likely to be exposed to high-fat, high sugar, high salt, energy-dense, or micronutrient-poor foods. These foods tend to be cheaper but have lower nutritional quality. They are combining these dietary habits with decreased physical activity results in a dramatic increase in childhood obesity.

What can be done to reduce obesity and excess weight?

It is possible to prevent obesity and overweight, as well the non-communicable illnesses, from happening. Community and support environments are crucial in shaping people’s choices. They help make healthier food choices and encourage regular physical activity, which can prevent obesity and overweight.

Individuals can:

  • Limit energy intake from total sugars and fats
  • Increase fruit and vegetable consumption, along with legumes, whole grain, and nuts.
  • Engage in regular physical activity (60 mins per day for children; 150 mins spread throughout the week for adults).

Individual responsibility is only effective if people have the opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle. It is therefore important that society supports individuals in following the recommendations. This can be done through the continued implementation of population-based, evidence-based policies. That makes it affordable and accessible for everyone to engage in regular physical activity and eat healthier choices, especially those who are the most vulnerable. One example is a tax on sugary beverages.

The food industry has a role to play in the promotion of healthy diets.

  • lower fat intake, salt, and sugar in processed foods
  • Making sure that everyone has access to nutritious and healthy foods at an affordable cost.
  • Restrictions on the marketing of foods high in sugar, salt, or fats, especially for children and teenagers.
  • Assisting employees in regular physical activity and ensuring healthy food choices.

WHO Response

In 2004, the World Health Assembly adopted the ” WHO Global Strategy on Food, Physical Activity, and Health.” It describes the actions that are needed to support healthy diets and regular exercise. The Strategy urges all parties to take action at the global, regional, and local levels to improve diets and physical activity patterns at the population level.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes NCDs and their importance as a critical challenge to sustainable development. In the Agenda, heads of state and government committed to developing ambitious national responses by 2030 to reduce premature death from NCDs by prevention and treatment (SDG target number 3.4).

The “Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030: More Active People for a Healthier World” provides practical and effective policies to increase physical activity worldwide. ACTIVE is a technical document that WHO has published to help countries plan and deliver their responses. In addition, 2019 saw the launch of new WHO guidelines regarding physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep for children younger than five years old.

The World Health Assembly welcomed the health report Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (2016). The six recommendations were made to address the obesogenic climate and key periods in life that are critical to tackling childhood obesity. In 2017, the World Health Assembly praised the implementation plan, which was designed to help countries implement the Commission’s suggestions.

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