World Obesity Day: A quarter of the population on track to be obese by 2035
03 Mar 2023 --- Ahead of World Obesity Day, the World Obesity Federation predicts that by 2035, 51% of the world’s population will be overweight or obese if current patterns are unchanged. In its recently published Atlas report for 2023, the federation forecasts that the economic cost will hit US$4.3 trillion by 2035, which amounts to 3% of the global GDP and is on par with the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The report will be presented on March 6 to policymakers from the United Nations, member states and civil society. By 2025, more than four billion people are expected to have a body mass index above 25, and one in four is expected to be obese, compared to one in seven today.
“This year’s Atlas is a clear warning that by failing to address obesity today, we risk serious repercussions in the future. It is particularly worrying to see obesity rates rising fastest among children and adolescents. Governments and policymakers worldwide need to do all they can to avoid passing health, social and economic costs on to the younger generation,” says Louise Baur, president of the World Obesity Federation.
“That means looking urgently at the systems and root factors contributing to obesity and actively involving young people in the solutions. If we act together now, we can help billions of people in the future,” Baur underscores.
Calling for a collective response
The International Sweeteners Association (ISA) works with health organizations to tackle obesity-related issues and improve the overall food environment.
The ISA has announced its partnership with organizations worldwide, such as the French and Portuguese associations for people living with obesity, the Brazilian Association of Diabetes Educators, The Colombian Diabetology Federation and the Brazilian Federation of Diabetes Organizations.
“Obesity requires a collective response and we are proud to collaborate with medical and patient organizations globally to help change perspectives on obesity,” says the ISA.
The ISA further notes that the overall view on obesity needs to change from a “Me to We” perspective and has released a campaign to encourage healthier eating.
Not only a high-income problem
The report further details that obesity used to be a dominant problem in high-income countries, although now the increase in the middle- and low-income countries is most profound.
“Let’s be clear, the economic impact of obesity is not the fault of individuals living with the disease. It results from high-level failures to provide the environmental, healthcare, food and support systems we all need to live happy and healthy lives. Addressing these issues will be valuable to billions of people in many ways,” says Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Obesity Federation.
In particular, low-income countries from Asia and Africa have the most rapid increases. The federation says that nine of the ten countries globally with the highest expected rates are from the two mentioned continents.
Child obesity is also seeing a rapid increase. By 2023, boys’ obesity is expected to double, and girls’ obesity will more than double (125% increase) compared to 2020.
“Every single region will see an increase in economic impact by 2035, with the Americas (North, Central and South America) shouldering the highest costs as a proportion of GDP (3.7%) and the Western Pacific region the highest total costs (US$1.56 trillion),” says the World Obesity Federation.
Calling for action
The report also sheds light on the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, chemical pollution, and new pandemics on increasing obesity rates further “without ambitious and coordinated action to address systemic issues.”
“If we do not act now, we will see significant increases in obesity prevalence over the next decade. The greatest increases will be seen in countries where scarce resources and lack of preparedness will create a perfect storm that will negatively impact people living with obesity the most,” says Rachel Jackson-Leach, director of science at the World Obesity Federation.
“We cannot afford to ignore the rising rates of obesity any longer. We hope that the findings of this latest Atlas will convince policymakers and civil society to take action and make tangible commitments to change in their regions,” Ralston concludes.
By Beatrice Wihlander
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