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This is how obesity has become a deadly epidemic

The obesity is today one of the major threats to health worldwide, and one of the major causes of death , over car accidents, terrorist attacks or alzheimer, all together.

It is a global epidemic that extends without distinguishing age, sex, borders or levels of development, and that is behind the expansion of serious chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, liver problems and various types of cancer.

To understand how obesity has become a major global threat, an international team of scientists, led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has carried out a huge study in which they have observed 68.5 million people in 195 countries of the world during a period of 25 years (1990-2015).

Evolution of the overweight and obesity index in the world from 1980 to 2015 (in purple women, in green men).

Its main result is worrisome: 10% of the world population (107.7 million children and 603.7 million adults) is obese today , which is one of the main, if not the greatest, threat to the public health worldwide, about what it takes to take educational and legal measures as has been done in recent decades compared to snuff or alcohol.

It is the food and not (both) the exercise

To focus on these preventive measures, some of the conclusions of the study are interesting. As for example, that in the reasons of this epidemic we put at the same height the bad diet and the lack of physical exercise, and we should not.

According to the study, levels of physical activity began to decline beforeglobal obesity figures soared, which means that food is the main cause .

Multinationals of fast food have reached practically every corner of the world with their plates and drinks full of calories and poor in nutrients . They have sold them cheaply and made them more accessible than their alternatives, unprocessed products, fruits and vegetables, especially in the cities.

And this explains in part the key to the problem: we eat more calories per person, with more processed and heavy meals, larger portions and sugary drinks to accompany.

That is, although exercise has undoubted benefits for health, the main cause of obesity is food and that is where you have to focus especially in regard to public policies against obesity.

Obesity, behind 4 million deaths in 2015

As we said at the beginning, obesity is a risk factor for many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, liver and kidney diseases and a large number of cancers.

Overall, the researchers estimate that an excess of body weight contributed to four million deaths worldwide, which is 7% of the total , only in 2015. The majority were deaths from cardiovascular diseases, followed closely by cases of diabetes.

It is a very high number, more than that obtained if we add causes of death in principle more commented on in the public sphere and the media against which more means of prevention and investigation are put, such as traffic accidents, terrorist attacks or alzheimer .

Obesity grows more among children

This conclusion is especially worrisome. The study shows that although obesity has a lower prevalence among children than among adults, the ratio grows faster among the former than among the latter.

Increase in obesity among children (under 19 years old) in the world between 1980 and 2015 (purple girls and green boys).

It is worrisome for two reasons. The first is that more and more evidence shows that overweight and obesity in childhood are important risk factors for health problems during the rest of life, worsening the quality of life and reducing their life expectancy.

The second is that, although health authorities, societies and individuals right now became aware of the problem and began to remedy it, a generation has already been born around the world that will have to deal with overweight and its consequences throughout their lives .

In rich countries, obesity no longer kills so much

A surprising ( or perhaps not so ) observation of this study is that the obesity ratios increase in many countries regardless of the level of development or economic possibilities of their population.

The black line marks the evolution of obesity in the world, the dwellings, from top to bottom, the evolution of obesity in countries of high economic level, high-medium, medium-low and low (data and visualizations of the Global Health Data Exchange website).

However, there are differences in their consequences: in some developed countries , the relationship between obesity and the associated burden of disease has been distanced, and the mortality ratio associated with obesity has decreased .

This is not because obesity in these countries is less dangerous, but because advances in medicine have helped people who suffer from it to maintain controlled hypertension and other associated heart problems.

The problem is that these advances are not available to the majority of the population living in developing countries where obesity is increasing the most. In Mali, Burkina Faso or Guinea Bissau, countries where obesity is growing rapidly, health systems are not prepared to deal with this epidemic and its associated diseases.

It is ironically sad to think that, as Mike Bloomberg, the UN’s global ambassador for non-communicable diseases, says:

“Today, for the first time in history, more people die because of an excess of unhealthy food that dies because of a shortage of healthy food.” This is a global epidemic that governments can not continue to ignore, because there are many steps that can be taken. Give to curb obesity and save lives. “


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