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Report: 1.5 Billion Adults Overweight or Obese

Obesity Geography Shifting graphicOver one third of all adults across the world – 1.46 billion people – are now obese or overweight, with the largest increase by far in the developing world, according to a report released last week.

Between 1980 and 2008, the numbers of people who became overweight or obese in the developing world more than tripled, from 250 million to 904 million. In high-income countries the numbers increased to 557 million over that same period, an increase of 1.7 times.

The Future Diets report, from the Overseas Development Institute, analyzed public data about what people around the world eat and weigh.

For cancer, overweight and obesity is a cause of seven cancers. AICR estimates that approximately 117,000 US cancers could be prevented if all Americans were a healthy weight.

Since 1980, overweight and obesity rates have almost doubled in China and Mexico, and risen by a third in South Africa, which now has a higher rate than the United Kingdom.  Regionally North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America all have overweight and obese rates on a par with Europe.

According to the report, diets in the developing world are shifting away from cereals and tubers to meat, fats and sugar. There is also a doubling of fruits and vegetables harvested.

Sugar and sweetener consumption has risen by over a fifth per person globally from 1961 to 2009. Less than a third of the world’s countries are consuming under the recommended top limit of 50 grams of sugar a day per person, and 69 countries have average per capita sugar consumption of more than double this recommended upper limit. The world’s top sugar consumers include the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Mexico.

Amongst developing countries the highest consumption of fat is in East Asia and Southern Africa. High income, industrialized countries still have much higher levels of fat consumption – often more than double.

The report also notes that one in eight people  – 852 million – in poor countries still do not have enough food to satisfy their basic needs. Governments are not doing enough to tackle the obesity crisis, the report states: The report authors suggest that a combination of moderate measures in education, prices and regulation may help.

Source: Sharada Keats and Steve Wiggins. Future diets: Implications for agriculture and food prices. (Opens PDF.) January 2014


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