The Global Problem of Obesity
More Than Half of Those in Worldwide Study Overweight or Obese
WebMD News Archive
Oct. 22, 2007 -- The obesity epidemic is actually a worldwide pandemic that
has global implications for health and disease, new research shows.
In one of the largest studies ever to examine obesity rates across the
globe, researchers found that more than 60% of men and 50% of women were either
overweight or obese.
They concluded that obesity is a growing problem in all regions of the
world, even among traditionally lean Asian populations.
"The study shows that excess body weight is pandemic, with one-half to
two-thirds of the overall study population being overweight or obese,"
researcher Beverley Balkau, PhD, of the French health service INSERM, says in a
The study involved 69,409 men and 98,750 women from 63 countries across five
continents evaluated by their primary care doctors for body weight, height,
cardiovascular disease (heart disease or stroke), diabetes, and waist
circumference. The U.S. was not included in the study.
Waist circumference is now considered an important marker of obesity-related
diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. A waist circumference of more than
40 inches in men and 35 inches in women is considered a risk factor for these
The people in the study had visited their doctor on one of two specially
designated days in which detailed information on weight, height, waist
circumference, and disease history were collected for the trial, providing a
snapshot of the prevalence of obesity worldwide.
Body mass index (BMI) was calculated from the weight and height
measurements. BMI looks at a person's weight in relation to height and is used
to determine obesity and overweight. Forty percent of men and 30% of women met
the criteria for being overweight, meaning they had a BMI of 25 to 29.9.
Fully a quarter of men and women met the BMI definition of obese (BMI of 30
or greater), but obesity rates did differ by region, ranging from a low of 7%
among men and women living in southern and eastern Asian countries to a high of
36% among men and women living in Canada.
Just under one in three men and almost half of the women had waist
circumferences of more than 40 and 35, respectively, putting them at higher
risk for heart disease and diabetes.
The rate of diagnosed heart disease among male and female study participants
was 16% and 13%, respectively. A total of 13% of men and 11% of women had known
The men and women in the study with the largest waists were more than twice
as likely as those with the smallest waists to have heart disease.
Diabetes risk was three times higher for the quarter of men with the biggest
waists and almost six times higher for women, compared with the quarter of the
study population with the smallest waists.
The study is published in the latest issue of the American Heart Association
(AHA) journal Circulation.