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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
More than 10 percent of the world's population is 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 research 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 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."
Analyzing some 1,800 data sets from around the world, researchers found that excess weight played a role in 4 million deaths in 2015, from heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and other factors. The per capita death rate was up 28 percent since 1990 and, notably, 40 percent of the deaths were among people who were overweight but not heavy enough to be classified as obese.
The study defined obese as a body mass index of 30 or higher and overweight as a BMI from 25 to 29.
By those measures, nearly 604 million adults and 108 million children worldwide are obese, the authors reported. Obesity rates among children are rising faster in many countries than among adults.
In the United States, 12.5 percent of children were obese, up from 5 percent in 1980. Combining children and adults, the United States had the dubious distinction of having the largest increase in percentile points of any country, a jump of 16 percentage points to 26.5 percent of the overall population.
The study authors said the growing accessibility of inexpensive, nutrient-poor packaged foods was probably a major factor and the general slowdown in physical activity was probably not.
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