Apr 4, 2016

Weight of the world: Four decades of spreading global obesity, in 2 animated maps

The world is growing ever fatter.

In 1975, the underweight outnumbered the obese more than 2 to 1 around the globe. But the tables had turned by 2014, according to a new study of obesity rates in much of the world: There are now more obese people than underweight people on Earth.

"The number of people across the globe whose weight poses a serious threat to their health is greater than ever before," Majid Ezzati, a professor at Imperial College London and lead author of the study, said in a statement. The study was published in the Lancet.

For men, the obesity rate more than tripled over the past four decades, rising from just over 3 percent to nearly 11 percent. Among women, the rate more than doubled, rising from more than 6 percent to nearly 15 percent.

Ezzati collaborated with more than 700 public health experts around the world to identify and collect obesity estimates for most countries from 1975 to 2014. He directs that network of experts, known as the Non-Communicable Diseases Risk Factor Collaboration, or NCD-RisC. The estimates are based on body-mass index values.

If the global trend continues, Ezzati and his colleagues estimate, nearly 18 percent of men and 21 percent of women will be obese by 2025.

Here's what the four-decade spread of obesity looks like for men and women, according to images of the interactive maps he and his collaborators created.

(Note: The maps show how the obesity rate changes within each country. Obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 kilograms per square meter or more.) 



Despite having less than a quarter of the population of China, the U.S. contributes about as much as that Asian nation to the world's obese population. Globally, roughly one in three obese men call either China or the United States home, while those two countries are home to about one in four obese women.

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