WHO warns against ‘obesity epidemic’ as Europe sees 59% adults log higher BMI

A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has shown shown that 59% of adults in Europe had a high body-mass index (BMI) in 2016. The report showed that most Europeans are overweight led by Turkey and United Kingdom. 

The World Health Organization said Tuesday in a report declaring an “obesity epidemic”. According to the UN health agency a body mass index (BMI) over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is obese.

WHO also said that the issue  of obesity has grown to epidemic proportions, with over 4 million people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese in 2017 according to the global burden of disease.

WHO released some key facts on the obesity survey they took recently. 

-Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.

-In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.

-39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese.

-Most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.

-39 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2020.

-Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016. 

Obesity is among the leading causes of death and disability and is said responsible for about 1.2 million fatalities each year, accounting for 13% of mortality in Europe. No country in Europe is on track to reduce obesity rates by 2025, the WHO report showed, predicting obesity to overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable cancers in the next decades.

Almost 74% of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said, based on data from 2017 and 2018.

The WHO said unhealthy food consumption has increased during the pandemic and is expected to compound the issue. Almost one in three children in Europe have a high body-mass index, the report found. The WHO urged governments to take action to fight obesity.

“We need attention at the highest level,” Kremlin Wickramasinghe, acting head of the WHO’s European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, told reporters in Geneva. “We hope this report will be a driving force for the next decade.” 

Prevalence estimates for obesity rose 21% in the 10 years before 2016 and more than doubled since 1975, according to the WHO. 

The pharmaceutical industry has been offering more medical treatments for obesity recently. In 2021, Wegovy, a drug made by Novo Nordisk A/S became the first weight-loss treatment to get U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval in years. The Danish company now holds more than two-thirds of the global branded obesity prescription drug market.  

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