Obesity and overweight, on the rise

Overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risks for global deaths. At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. In addition, 44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden and between 7% and 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity.

Key facts
• Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980;
• In 2008, 1.5 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight. Of these over 200 million men and nearly 300 million
women were obese;
• 65% of the world's population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight;
• Nearly 43 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2010;
• Obesity is preventable.

What are overweight and obesity?
Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.
Body mass index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).

The WHO definition:
• a BMI greater than or equal to 25 is overweight
• a BMI greater than or equal to 30 is obesity
BMI provides the most useful population-level measure of overweight and obesity as it is the same for both sexes and for all ages of adults. However, it should be considered a rough guide because it may not correspond to the same degree of fatness in different individuals.

What causes obesity and overweight?
The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Globally, there has been:
• an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat, salt and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients;
• a decrease in physical activity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.

How can overweight and obesity be reduced?
Overweight and obesity, as well as their related non-communicable diseases, are largely preventable. Supportive environments and communities are fundamental in shaping people's choices, making the healthier choice of foods and regular physical activity the easiest choice, and therefore preventing obesity.

At the individual level, people can:
• limit energy intake from total fats;
• increase consumption of fibres from fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts;
• limit the intake of sugars;
• engage in regular physical activity;
• achieve energy balance and a healthy weight.
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