Evidence-Based Truths About Our Obesity Epidemic

by | Food | 0 comments

“Each and every one of us has unknowingly played a part in the obesity problem.” Indra Nooyi, Business Executive

The Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) is the most comprehensive worldwide observational epidemiological study to date. It describes mortality and morbidity from major diseases, injuries, and risk factors to health at global, national and regional levels.

Common Truths About the Burden of Chronic Preventable Disease Globally


Let’s start with some common truths about chronic disease burden of preventable disease.

We seem to have more health-based experts than any other period of history. Yet people have more problems now and the burden of chronic preventable disease is increasing.

obesity epidemic

Yes, the global life expectancy is increasing each year. The average life expectancy of the global population in 2015 was 71.4 years. However, we have also seen the first generation to have a predicted life expectancy less than their parents. This is a direct result of the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity.

Regardless of having more evidence and more experts, the burden of chronic disease is increasing each year. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. So, what should we do differently? Out of the top 10 leading causes of death and disability, 80% are preventable.

The top two leading causes of death, heart disease and stroke, are directly linked to the two highest burdens attributing to these diseases. These are dietary requirements and obesity.

Chronic diseases are the largest cause of death in the world. In 2002, the leading chronic diseases: cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes, caused 29 million deaths worldwide.

Despite growing evidence of epidemiological and economic impact, the global response to the problem remains inadequate. Stakeholders include governments, the World Health Organization, and other United Nations bodies, academic and research groups, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector.

Lack of financial support slows down capacity development for prevention, treatment, and research in most developing countries. Reasons for this include that up-to-date evidence related to the nature of the burden of chronic diseases is not in the hands of decision makers.

The influence of global economic factors on the risks related to chronic disease impedes progress, as does the orientation of health systems toward acute care.


What Can Be Done to Change the Situation?


It is crucial to elevate chronic diseases on the health agenda of key policymakers. Doing so will provide them with better evidence about risk factor control. It will also work to persuade them of the need for health systems change.

A more concerted, strategic, and multi-sectoral policy approach is needed. This approach needs to be underpinned by solid research. This is essential in helping to reverse the negative trends in the global incidence of chronic disease.

The 10 Leading Causes Of Death in the World Between 2000 and 2012


Ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections, and chronic obstructive lung disease were the leading causes of deaths worldwide from 2000 to 2012.

HIV deaths decreased slightly from 1.7 million deaths in 2000 to 1.5 million deaths in 2012. Diabetes is no longer among the 5 leading causes of death. Yet it is still among the top 10, killing 1.5 million people in 2012.

Chronic diseases cause increasing numbers of deaths worldwide. Lung cancers (along with trachea and bronchus cancers) caused 1.6 million deaths in 2012. This is up from 1.2 million deaths in 2000. Similarly, diabetes is up by .5 million deaths since 2000.

So What Are These Chronic Preventable Diseases?


Chronic diseases and conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems.

Smoking, a lack of exercise, and a poor diet are the three main causes behind these problems.

So Why Is The Focus On Obesity?


Being overweight and obesity (high BMI) is the second highest contributor to the burden of disease, after dietary risks. Smoking is the third highest.

The simple point here is to see the direct link between the leading contributors, food and nutrition, and obesity. So, if we can help solve the problem behind obesity, then we can reduce the largest burden on the health and wellness system globally.

There are several simple things that can be done to reduce the burden of these diseases on healthcare systems around the world. On a personal level, people need to focus on food and nutrition. Focus also needs to be on the amount of exercise that they get. Smoking cessation programs can also aid people with quitting cigarettes.

We need to re-evaluate the way food is harvested, how harmful pesticides can be replaced, and how people can be persuaded to turn away from junk food. Then together, we can start to deal more effectively with obesity.

The burden can be broken down into several graphs.


What Is The Actual Global Impact Of Obesity?


More than two-thirds of adults are considered to be overweight or obese. More than one-third of adults are considered to be obese. More than 1 in 20 people has extreme obesity.


What Are The Developing Countries Saying?



Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, Minister of Health & Family Welfare, said: “As my country tackles the increasing number of issues relating to chronic disease, the scale of the problem we face is clear.”

India has the third-highest number of obese and overweight people (11 % of adolescents, and 20 % of all adults) after US and China, according to a recent study mapping global malnutrition trends.


Olusegun Obasanjo, the President of Nigeria, has said “We cannot afford to say, ‘we must tackle other diseases first – HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis – then we will deal with chronic diseases.’ If we wait even 10 years, we will find that the problem is even larger and more expensive to address.”obesity epidemic

Already, more than 35% of women in Nigeria are overweight; by 2010 this number will rise to 44%.


Wang Longde the Vice-Minister of Health for China, says: “We can measure the loss of income to the Chinese economy alone at a staggering US$ 550 billion over the next 10 years, due to the effects of just heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

China is facing significant health challenges, not just with infectious diseases but now with the double burden of chronic disease. Three-hundred million of our adult male’s smoke cigarettes; 160 million adults are now hypertensive. Chronic disease death rates in our middle-aged population are higher than in some high-income countries. We have an obesity epidemic, with more than 20% of our 7–17-year-old children in urban centres tipping the scales as either overweight or obese.”


Chronic diseases and conditions noted above are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the USA.

As of 2012, about half of all adults—117 million people—had one or more chronic health conditions. One of four adults had two or more chronic health conditions.

Seven of the top 10 causes of death in 2010 were chronic diseases. Two of these chronic diseases—heart disease and cancer—together accounted for nearly 48% of all deaths.

Obesity is a serious health concern. During 2009–2010, more than one-third of adults, or about 78 million people, were obese. Nearly one of five youths aged 2–19 years was obese.

The Healthcare Costs of Obesity


Obesity is one of the biggest drivers of preventable chronic diseases and healthcare costs in the United States. Currently, estimates for these costs range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year. In addition, obesity is associated with job absenteeism, costing approximately $4.3 billion annually. With lower productivity at work costing employers $506 per obese worker per year.

The estimated annual health care costs of obesity-related illness are a staggering $190.2 billion or nearly 21% of annual medical spending in the United States. Childhood obesity alone is responsible for $14 billion in direct medical costs.


Impact on Cities And Communities


The direct and additional hidden costs of obesity are stifling businesses and organisations that stimulate jobs and growth in U.S. cities. In the 10 cities with the highest obesity rates, the direct costs connected with obesity and obesity-related diseases are roughly $50 million per 100,000 residents. If these 10 cities cut their obesity rates down to the national average, the combined savings to their communities would be $500 million in healthcare costs each year.


Impact on The Nation


In addition to growing health care costs attributed to obesity, the nation will incur higher costs for disability and unemployment benefits. Businesses are suffering due to obesity-related job absenteeism at $4.3 billion annually.



In Australia, more than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese. More than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese. More than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity. About one-third of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be overweight or obese. More than 1 in 6 children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be obese.

obesity epidemic


Click here for 7 tools in 7 days for sustained weight management.

What do you think about this article? Head over to our Facebook page and tell us!




The Burden And Costs Of Chronic Diseases In Low-Income And Middle-Income Countries

GHO Data On Life Expectancy

Top 10 Causes Of Death

Burden Of Overweight And Obesity

India Has A Growing Obesity Problem, Study Shows

Overweight And Obesity Statistics


obesity epidemic


Click to Get Your Copy