Australia, you’re getting fat — and fast

A new analysis has revealed that Australia and New Zealand are the top two countries where rates of obesity are increasing faster than any other country in the world.

Global overweight and obesity rates have risen by 27.5 per cent in adults and 47.1 per cent in children over the past 33 years — and if that doesn’t sound alarming enough, here’s the clincher: Obesity rates in Australia have risen by 81 per cent during this time.

In a new analysis, researchers, led by a team from the University of Washington, analysed data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 and tracked the weight of adults and children from 188 countries between 1980 and 2013.

The analysis revealed that, while Australia doesn’t have the highest prevalence of obese individuals over 20, we have seen the second-highest increase in obesity levels since 1980 — second only to New Zealand, which showed a 93 per cent increase. Australia is currently ranked 25th in the world in terms of the percentage of our population that is obese.

The grim findings also showed

  • 37 per cent of the world’s adult population is either obese or overweight
  • 14 per cent of the world’s children or adolescents are either obese or overweight
  • 62 per cent of the world’s obese individuals are living in developed countries

With this dramatic rise in the prevalence of overweight and obesity around the world, no national success stories have been reported — meaning we are not doing enough to curb the problem.

Klim McPherson, a U.K. professor of public health epidemiology at New College, Oxford University, said that the issues and consequences of being overweight are “well understood”.

In an accompanying editorial, he wrote that, together with the technological revolution in food science and the sale of junk food, modern lifestyles and increasing disposable income play a part in this problem.

Obesity is a major health concern in developed countries, with many health experts now considering it to be a global epidemic. Defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher, obesity increases the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and some cancers.

The authors of the analysis, which was published in the medical journal The Lancet, have called for urgent global action and leadership to help countries to more effectively intervene.

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