Dec 15, 2017 - Health Care

2.2 billion worldwide are obese or overweight

2.2 billion people — one-third of the world's population — are obese or overweight, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study, which used data from the most recent Global Burden of Disease study, spanned 35 years and 195 countries, providing a new level of granularity concerning the world's biggest public health crisis:

Key takeaways:

  • Look up: Our visualization of the study's data shows the change in obesity rates for adults from 1980 to 2015, broken down by sociodemographics, and the takeaway is clear: except for a few outliers, the proportion of populations that are obese or overweight is increasing — especially in more developed countries.
  • The visible trend: As the level of a country's development increased so did the prevalence of obesity in men but for women, there was a larger increase in countries with a lower sociodemographic index.
  • Another big thing: The study showed that while fewer children are obese as a percentage of the population (5%) compared to adults (12%), the rates of childhood obesity are increasing much more rapidly in many places, presenting a health risk for the future.
  • Possible causes: Increased accessibility to energy-dense foods and a marked global increase in urbanization that can reduce chances for physical activity, though the authors note a shift to urban-living happened before the global increase in obesity.
  • The impact: The study looked at the effects of high body mass index and its myriad physical impacts over 25 years, finding that 7.1% of deaths worldwide in 2015 could be directly attributed to excess weight. That rate jumped 28.3% from 1990 to 2015. Unsurprisingly, it also contributed to a massive spike in years of life lost to disability and related diseases.
  • Worth considering: Nearly 40% of the 4 million deaths in 2015 linked to excess body weight occurred among people who weren't yet classified as obese, showing that simply being overweight can be a serious health risk.

What's next

Coca-Cola ad campaign targeted teens as childhood obesity worsens

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Coca-Cola's advertising continues to target teenagers despite public-health concerns about childhood obesity, according to a paper published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Why it matters: Childhood obesity is expected to cost the U.S. $14 billion a year in direct health expenses. Rising obesity rates will translate into Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

America's heart disease epidemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Americans are increasingly dying of heart disease and strokes as they hit middle age — and the trend is happening across the country, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of mortality rates.

Why it matters: It suggests "that the underlying causes of cardiovascular disease are universal and difficult to address," the Journal found.

A care model for the sickest patients doesn't work

An emergency room is a common site for "superutilizers." Photo: Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Providing close follow-up care from a team of clinical and social workers to the sickest, most vulnerable patients does not reduce hospital readmissions, a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes.

Why it matters: Many doctors and scholars viewed this approach as a promising way to improve care and save money, but it doesn't appear to do either.