Obesity Epidemic Increasing Worldwide

National government intervention should lead efforts to reduce and reverse the epidemic

FRIDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity appears to be increasing worldwide, affecting countries in varying degrees and negatively impacting quality of life and increasing associated societal costs, however, a new weight loss model and national government intervention may help slow and reverse the epidemic, according to four studies published in an obesity series online August 25 in The Lancet.

In the first study, Boyd Swinburn, M.D., of Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues, found that obesity increased among all countries worldwide, with rates varying greatly between countries. Obesity rates were highest in the Tonga (seven in 10 adult women) and the U.S. (one in three adult women), followed by the U.K. and Australia (one in four adult women), the Netherlands (one in 10 adult women), and in Japan and China (one in 20 adult women). Obesity is gaining traction in low-income and middle-income countries, driven by increased supply of cheap, tasty, energy-dense food, improved food distribution, and marketing. In a second study, Y. Claire Wang, M.D., of Columbia University in New York, and colleagues, evaluated obesity trends in the U.S. and U.K. and their impact on prevalence of diseases and healthcare spending. The investigators found that many chronic and acute health disorders associated with obesity negatively impact health-related quality of life and incurring societal costs such as increased health-care costs and lost productivity.

In the third study, Kevin Hall, M.D., of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues evaluated a new web-based bodyweight simulation model, which incorporates metabolic adaptations that occur with decreasing bodyweight. The investigators found that this model appears to provide a more realistic and accurate weight loss predictive tool, providing an approximate dieting rule for a typical overweight adult, which states every 10 calories per day reduction in energy intake will result in a bodyweight loss of about one pound over three years. In the fourth study, Steven L Gortmaker, M.D., of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston Massachusetts, and colleagues evaluated interventions needed to stop and reverse the obesity epidemic and found that national government agencies should lead the effort, outlining policies that governments should prioritize for implementation.

"There are five messages that need to form the basis of a concerted response. One, the obesity epidemic will not be reversed without government leadership. Two, business as usual would be costly in terms of population health, health care expenses, and loss of productivity. Three, assumptions about speed and sustainability of weight loss are wrong. Four, we need to accurately monitor and evaluate both basic population weight data and intervention outcomes. Five, a systems approach is needed with multiple sectors involved," the author of an accompanying editorial writes.

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