Obesity

Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

  • Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.
  • In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.
  • 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese.
  • Most of the world's population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.
  • 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2016.
  • Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016.
  • Obesity is preventable

What are overweight and obesity?

Body mass index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2)

What causes obesity and overweight?

The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Globally, there has been: an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat; and an increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS?

At the individual level, people can:

  • Limit energy intake from total fats and sugars;
  • Increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts; and
  • Engage in regular physical activity (60 minutes a day for children and 150 minutes spread through the week for adults).

Individual responsibility can only have its full effect where people have access to a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, at the societal level it is important to support individuals in following the recommendations above, through sustained implementation of evidence based and population based policies that make regular physical activity and healthier dietary choices available, affordable and easily accessible to everyone, particularly to the poorest individuals. An example of such a policy is a tax on sugar sweetened beverages.

The food industry can play a significant role in promoting healthy diets by:

  • Reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods;
  • Ensuring that healthy and nutritious choices are available and affordable to all consumers;
  • Restricting marketing of foods high in sugars, salt and fats, especially those foods aimed at children and teenagers; and
  • Ensuring the availability of healthy food choices and supporting regular physical activity practice in the workplace.

 

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