One in eight people are now living with obesity, new Lancet study finds

Obesity rates across the world are rising, new research has found. File image.

Obesity rates across the world are rising, new research has found. File image.

Published Mar 4, 2024


A new Lancet study has revealed that more than one billion people in the world are now living with obesity.

The research, conducted by the weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal is for the period up to 2022.

Their latest findings discovered that obesity among adults worldwide has more than doubled since 1990.

Meanwhile, the same study has found during this 32-year time period, obesity rates amongst those aged between five and 19 has quadrupled, while the data also shows that 43% of adults were overweight in 2022.

“The study also shows that even though the rates of under-nutrition have dropped, it is still a public health challenge in many places, particularly in South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,” Lancet said in a media statement.

They added that countries with the highest combined rates of underweight and obesity in 2022 were island nations in the Pacific and the Caribbean and those in the Middle East and North Africa.

They explained that malnutrition, in all its forms, includes under-nutrition such as wasting, stunting, being underweight as well as inadequate vitamin or mineral intake, being overweight and obesity.

Obesity rates across the world are rising, new research has found. File image.

“Under-nutrition is responsible for half of the deaths of children under five and obesity can cause non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and some cancers.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also contributed to the data collection and analysis of this study.

“This new study highlights the importance of preventing and managing obesity from early life to adulthood, through diet, physical activity, and adequate care, as needed,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added in the statement.

“Getting back on track to meet the global targets for curbing obesity will take the work of governments and communities, supported by evidence-based policies from WHO and national public health agencies.”

“Importantly, it requires the cooperation of the private sector, which must be accountable for the health impacts of their products”.

Ghebreyesus explained that obesity is a complex chronic disease.

“The causes are well understood, as are the interventions needed to contain the crisis, which are backed by strong evidence.”

But he believes that these interventions are not implemented.

“At the World Health Assembly in 2022, Member States adopted the WHO Acceleration plan to stop obesity, which supports country-level action through 2030.”

“To date, 31 governments are now leading the way to curb the obesity epidemic by implementing the plan.

The WHO’s core interventions are:

  • Actions to support healthy practices from day one, including breastfeeding promotion, protection and support.
  • Regulations on the harmful marketing of food and beverages to children.
  • School food and nutrition policies, including initiatives to regulate the sales of products high in fats, sugars and salt in proximity of schools.
  • Fiscal and pricing policies to promote healthy diets.
  • Nutrition labelling policies.
  • Public education and awareness campaigns for healthy diets and exercise.
  • Standards for physical activity in schools.
  • The integration of obesity prevention and management services into primary health care.

Dr Francesco Branca, the director of WHO’s Nutrition and Food Safety Department and one of the study’s co-authors added that there are significant challenges in implementing policies which are aimed at ensuring affordable access to healthy diets for all.

This also extends to creating environments that promote physical activity and overall healthy lifestyles for people across the globe.

"Countries should also ensure that health systems integrate the prevention and management of obesity into the basic package of services," she said.

“Addressing under-nutrition requires multi-sectoral action in agriculture, social protection and health, to reduce food insecurity, improve access to clean water and sanitation and ensure universal access to essential nutrition interventions.”