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Study: World Obesity Triples Since 1980, Nearly 1.5 Billion People Overweight

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A worldwide dichotomy between obesity and hunger has created a stark division between an increasing amount of those who have too much and those who still have too little. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A worldwide dichotomy between obesity and hunger has created a stark division between an increasing amount of those who have too much and those who still have too little. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) – A worldwide dichotomy between obesity and hunger has created a stark division between an increasing amount of those who have too much and those who still have too little.

With new economies jumpstarting across the globe, combining with efforts to eliminate malnutrition, world hunger has dropped 17 percent since 1990. However, between 1980 and 2008, the number of obese or overweight adults in the developing world more than tripled from 250 million to 904 million.

And according to the new study from Overseas Development Institute (ODI), over one-third of all adults across the world – 1.46 billion people – are now obese or overweight.

The ODI data looks at how efforts to improve world hunger have been offset with poor dietary choices spiking in newly developing countries. The effect is that while “traditional hunger” has been eroded, world consumption of fats, sugars and meats have taken its place.

“The world is bifurcating into a group of people who have too much and a group of people who consume too little,” John Hoddinott, a senior research fellow with the International Food Policy Research Institute, told Al-Jazeera. “And it’s more marked in the developing world because chronic undernutrition remains much more prevalent.”

North America is still the reigning region for overweight and obese residents, sitting at nearly 70 percent – but the rest of the world is catching up.

The researchers note that rising incomes seem to be a prime factor for fatty diets and correlating obesity, with higher incomes, urban living and more sedentary living replacing fruits, vegetables and more rural lifestyles. The forces of globalization appear to push the homogenization of animal fat and oil diet staples.

A sign of homogenization within developing areas is reflected in data that shows North Africa and the Middle East region along with Latin America now have almost the same percentage of overweight or obese people as Europe.

A growing disparity is also present in developing nations where many are consuming such poor diets, while others continue to go hungry. The WFP reports that 842 million go hungry each day.

“There seems to be little will among the public and leaders to take the determined action that is needed to influence future diets, but that may change in the face of the serious health implications,” write the researchers. “Combinations of moderate measures in education, prices and regulation may achieve far more than drastic action of any one type.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that over one-third (35.7 percent) of U.S. adults are obese, with obesity-related conditions such as heart disease and stroke remaining some of the leading causes of preventable death.

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