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Almost one in four Irish adults are obese, a rate worse than most of Europe

A a new global study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that obesity kills about 3.4 million people a year.

OBESITY AND OVERWEIGHT rates in Ireland are among the highest in Western Europe according to a new global study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The figures for Irish men over 20-years of age show that 66 per cent are above their recommend weight while 51 per cent of women of the same age are.

In the case of men, only six countries out of 22 in Western Europe fare worse while five countries have higher rates in the case of women.

Comparisons with other European countries of overweight and obese young people under-20 were also along similar lines, but slightly better.

In Ireland, obesity rates are as follows; 6.9 per cent for boys under-20 and 7.2 per cent for girls under in 20. Among Irish adults over 20, the rates for men and women are at about 23 per cent.

For the purposes of the research, obesity was calculated at a proportion of body-mass index above 30 kg/m² while being overweight was measured at above 25 kg/m².

The worldwide research has been published by the Lancet medical journal and found that the number of obese and overweight people worldwide has increased from 857 million in 1980 to 2.1 billion in 2013.

This varied greatly across the world with more than half of the world’s 671 million obese individuals living in just ten countries.

In high-income countries, some of the highest increases in adult obesity prevalence have been in the USA where roughly a third of the adult population are obese, Australia where 28 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women are obese, and the UK where around a quarter of the adult population are obese.

On balance however, obeseity rates are higher in developing countires, approaching 40 per cent in some places with 62 per cent of the world’s obese people live in developing countries.

Worldwide, the proportion of men who were overweight increased from 28·8 per cent in 1980 to 36·9 per cent in 2013, and the proportion of women who were overweight increased from 29·8 per cent to 38·0 per cent.

The research also makes specific reference to childhood obesity which has increased by 33 per cent in the past 33 years.

Some of the other key findings include:

  • In the developed world, men have higher rates of obesity than women, while the opposite is true in developing countries.
  • The greatest gain in overweight and obesity occurred globally between 1992 and 2002, mainly among people aged between 20 and 40.
  • Especially high rates of overweight and obesity have already been reached in Tonga and a number of other Pacific countries where levels of obesity in men and women exceed 50%. It is also the case in Kuwait, Libya and Qatar that most people were obese.
  • In developed countries, the rate of increase in adult obesity has started to slow down in the past 8 years and there is some evidence that those more recent birth cohorts are gaining weight more slowly than previous ones.

“Unlike other major global health risks, such as tobacco and childhood nutrition, obesity is not decreasing worldwide,” said  Professor Emmanuela Gakidou lead researcher at the University of Washington.

Our findings show that increases in the prevalence of obesity have been substantial, widespread, and have arisen over a short time. However, there is some evidence of a plateau in adult obesity rates that provides some hope that the epidemic might have peaked in some developed countries.

The importance of the addressing the issues was highlighted by the research which showed that 3.4 million deaths were caused by obesity in 2010.

The Lancet article in full can be accessed here.

Read: Half-ton Mexican man, once the world’s heaviest, dies aged 48 >

Read: More shops need to stop selling sweets and chocolates at checkouts – Reilly >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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