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Earth Science

More People On Earth Now Obese Than Underweight, Says Study (statnews.com) 369

An anonymous reader writes: According to a new study published in the Lancet, obese people now outnumber the underweight population for perhaps the first time in global history. Majid Ezzati, an environmental health researcher at Imperial College London who led the study, analyzed data from 1975 to 2014 across 19.2 million adults from 186 countries. They found that over the 40-year-span, the proportion of obese men worldwide more than tripled, to roughly 11 percent, and the proportion of obese woman more than doubled, to about 15 percent. Researchers estimate 18 percent of men and 21 percent of women worldwide will be obese by 2025. What some may consider more surprising is that more than 25 percent of the world's severely obese men and almost 20 percent of the world's severely obese women are American. However, the rapid rise of obesity in developing nations is most concerning as it's more difficult for obese people to modify their diet and have access to medication.
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More People On Earth Now Obese Than Underweight, Says Study

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  • by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Thursday March 31, 2016 @11:11PM (#51820405)
    Although obesity may seem like a problem in developed countries, the fact that there are more obese people than underweight people in the world means that starvation is much less of a problem than it used to be. We now have enough food to feed the world. This is a good thing. Better to be a bit chubby than die of starvation which in some parts of the world, people used to do.
    • You have things backwards. Poor people eat cheap food, which is cheap for a reason, because it isn't good for you. Fast food, while cheap, makes you fat. Lazy people also eat cheap food because the society which they live in encourages laziness and having no time. Ever wonder why cancer rates are up? You are what you eat isn't just a cute little moniker.
      • by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer@nosPAM.earthlink.net> on Friday April 01, 2016 @12:04AM (#51820601)

        Ever wonder why cancer rates are up?

        No, not really. Cancer rates are up because of all the ways for people to die cancer is one that we haven't figured out yet. Modern farming has allowed us to avoid starvation. Finding out how to make heat and light from coal and oil has made it much less likely to die of food poisoning, freezing, and bumping into wild animals at night. Modern medicine has kept us from dying from industrial accidents, wars, infections, heart attacks, diabetes, and on and on. Electricity, electronics, and school systems educate the masses on nutrition, how to safely cross a street, first aid, and more. The only thing left that we have not found out how to keep from killing us is cancer.

        Basically we are now living long enough that our chances of having cancer kill us is growing. I recall hearing somewhere that the chances of a male dying from cancer is about 50%. I'm not sure if this was in the USA, world wide, some other nation but that stuck with me.

        You are what you eat isn't just a cute little moniker.

        With all we know now on what can cause cancer I doubt it's what we eat that causes this.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Except cancer is coming at earlier and earlier ages. What you eat impacts your body's ability to care of itself. Cancer is natural. Everyone likely has cancer at all points during their life. Cancer is simply some cells growing too much. However your body can handle that, except when it's overwhelmed or doesn't have the resources to deal with it. So yes, what you eat and do can directly impact your natural ability to keep cancer under control. Look at the cancer rate studies on nurses. Simply workin

        • And also, as death rates from cancer go down, the number of incidents goes up, because you survive to get it again. My father got cancer, was treated, made a full recovery, lived to enjoy his retirement another decade, but eventually died from a different type of cancer.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )

          With all we know now on what can cause cancer

          There are many causes of cancer because it's uncontrolled cell growth due to damage and eating the wrong stuff causes some of them. It's like a lottery and the more "tickets" you buy the more chances there are of it happening. Asbestos in the lungs for instance increases the chances massively due to cell damage and later growth with every breath, so a tiny chance with every breath adds up to near certainty over time. Certain chemicals in some of the charred fa

    • I'm just curious, is your BMI over 25?
    • It's not that starvation is less an issue than before. Check out the kids malnutrition issue in, yes, the USA in the years since the crisis for example. You don't need to go looking for it in Africa or wherever you expect to find your favourite hellhole.
      We do indeed have enough food in the world to feed everybody, but we have a serious distribution issue. Pretty much the same dynamics here as in the whole 1% vs. 99% issue, classic inequality stuff, if not so finely defined nevertheless.
      And the thing is, in

    • Actually the way the BMI scale works, being underweight on it, isn't necessarily as bad a thing as being overweight.
      The _vast_ majority of people who live an extremely long life (exceeding 90 years) are generally very thin people.

    • Although obesity may seem like a problem in developed countries, the fact that there are more obese people than underweight people in the world means that starvation is much less of a problem than it used to be. We now have enough food to feed the world. This is a good thing. Better to be a bit chubby than die of starvation which in some parts of the world, people used to do.

      You're assuming equal distribution of food which is not accurate. There's still plenty of starvation in the world.
      https://www.wfp.org/hunger/sta... [wfp.org]

      So yes, there is enough food to feed the world - but most of it is consumed and wasted by the (relative) wealthy.

    • It depends. If obese and underweight people are unevenly distributed in the world, this could severely affect the Earth rotation rate.
  • by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Thursday March 31, 2016 @11:19PM (#51820435)

    Somewhat related:

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/03/us-increase-meat-consumption-europe-less-meat-sustainability

  • "where even the poor people are fat."
  • Pound for pound there are a lot more obese people.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 31, 2016 @11:33PM (#51820473)

    I'm old enough (58) to have seen some cultural shifts which seem related to this. I don't think it is anything so simple that you can blame it all on a few things, but it seems to me that these cannot possibly be helping:

    ** When I was a school child, there were no video games or internet. When you wanted to play, you got some friends together and had a pickup game of baseball or you rode your bikes around town or did some other outdoor activity. We were physically active on a daily basis, while now the normal entertainment is to sit still and play games. There's nothing wrong with games, but every hour spent doing that is one hour not spent running around outside burning calories.

    ** Sugar based sodas were consumed in moderation, or often, not at all. There were no "64 Oz Big Gulps", and no one ever drank sodas in my school. Your choices were milk or water. Parents rarely let children consume sodas.

    ** There was less acceptance of overweight people, more social shaming. I won't say that was a good thing - shaming people can cause long term emotional harm and hurts in other ways. But one byproduct of this is that no one wanted to be "that fat kid". (My school had just one fat kid, where now childhood obesity is systemic, and I see 3rd graders who look... morbidly obese).

    Now I'm nearing 60 and still normal weight. I have an easier time going up multiple flights of steps than, I would estimate, around 2/3 of the people who are in their 20's, because I'm carrying 50, 100, sometimes even 200 pounds less than they are at the same height.

    I think the solution needs a cultural shift back towards valuing healthy eating and exercise. There are no shortcuts. The culture has to value this, or it won't happen.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The largest cultural shift to happen in your time frame has been two-income households and on top of that most people are working longer hours than ever before.

      That means less time to cook nutritious meals, less time to monitor what the kids are doing, and less time for recreation.

      This notion of a qualitative shift within a few generations is asinine. There's a reason energy drinks happened within this generation. People are tired and harried.

    • Even though you are more than a decade older than me I will say I have seen similar trends.

      Before air conditioning we'd see more people go to a swimming pool to cool off. If not that then people would at least sweat off some calories.

      Before computers and video games people would be more likely to go outside to play. This has some overlap with the air conditioning thing since people are also just as likely to read a book or play a board game inside as opposed to going out in the heat. Even when outside pe

    • by Evtim ( 1022085 )

      Remember how it went - when forming the football teams one gets the fat kid, the other gets the weird kid. Notice there is only one representative of those groups. I am in my early forties; back in primary school we were 36 kids in the class. We had 1 fat boy and 2 fat girls and that was that...

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        Looking back at photos the "fat kid" wasn't that by current standards either. And that was with baked goods at the school canteen dripping with fat (cream buns, sausage rolls etc). No carbonated drinks though, which I suspect are a very major part of the cause.
    • ** When I was a school child, there were no video games or internet. When you wanted to play, you got some friends together and had a pickup game of baseball or you rode your bikes around town or did some other outdoor activity. We were physically active on a daily basis, while now the normal entertainment is to sit still and play games. There's nothing wrong with games, but every hour spent doing that is one hour not spent running around outside burning calories.

      When you were a kid, you played on playground equipment that was barely safer than just handing kids a box of razor blades. Nobody asked just why Mr. Johnson always had a pocket full of candy and liked to watch the children play all day. You would have killed your parents to get your hands on one of the video games we have now, you just didn't have a choice and can feel nostalgic about it.

      ** Sugar based sodas were consumed in moderation, or often, not at all. There were no "64 Oz Big Gulps", and no one ever drank sodas in my school. Your choices were milk or water. Parents rarely let children consume sodas.

      And a lot of those kids grew up and said "I'm not going to be MY parents, here baby, have all the soda you want!" Bes

    • ** There was less acceptance of overweight people, more social shaming.

      There are subtler and more powerful forces in play. Humans on the whole don't like to be the odd one out. We also judge ourselves on how we compare to others. If you're a fat bloke in a slim part of the world you stand out. There's no shaming, finger pointing, whispers behind the back etc, but you still stand out. Likewise if you're a skinny guy in a fat part of the world you ALSO stand out.

      Few people like standing out.

  • Obviously Western Civilization and Capitalism are to blame for this.

  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @12:04AM (#51820591) Homepage

    I know this thread is going to be full of We Hate Americans - it's already started. But I just think this is really amazing. For the entirety of human existence, food has been a huge problem. Hunger was always, at most, a year or two away. Starvation is the best way to kill huge numbers of humans at once. Malnutrition, or control of food, is one of the best ways to keep them in line. Ever seen those fiftyish/sixtyish Chinese ladies who are all so short? It's because their growth was stunted as children because their government didn't provide enough for them to eat. Even without shitheads starving people to death for political reasons, lack of enough food was always a concern.

    Now, we not only have solved the food problem, but we have gone too far the opposite direction. Wow! People have too much food. Food is too cheap. But that's not all, they don't just have too much food, they have the wrong kind of it! It's not just the quantity, it is the diversity and free choice that is causing all the problems. Who would have even imagined such an outcome? Did any of the visionary Sci-Fi authors of the 20th century see this coming? Because this is more earth-shattering than landing a probe on a comet (but I have been educated by the media and now understand that the shirt the spokesman was wearing when he made the announcement WAS more important than any scientific achievement humanity might have accomplished that day). Moreover this food is available just about anywhere. It tastes delicious as well, something people today barely realize, if ever.

    One of my minor hobbies is making old or ancient recipes straight from manuscripts or books, as close as I can. Something I've noticed is how much they really aren't that good. They're edible, to be sure, and they get you full and they're nutritious because they're always made from scratch. But they just ain't that good. There is almost always some simple optimization that would make them taste much, much better. I'm not saying the people of old didn't enjoy their food, because they did. It's a universal human condition, whether you're eating oeufs au plat Meyerbeer prepared by a separate entremettier, rotisseur and saucier; or a bowl of oat porridge with pig fat. A lot of people ridicule McDonald's hamburgers or Applebee's entrees in the boil-in bags. But damn, that food is super-tasty. Far better than kings used to eat. It's never spoiled, either, and if it is you send it back and get a fresh one...something else we never take note of.

    Yeah, unhealthy food causes disease and cancer. We all know. But this is a new, thrilling problem to combat. It's *the right kind of problem*. It's like being confronted with what to do with too much money. How can we make healthy food taste just as good or better than that fast food crap? Surely society's great minds are going to work on this one. I don't know though...I get the idea too many people out there just enjoy hating fatties, Wal-mart, Applebee's, trailer parks, and Monsanto far too much to ever think that maybe things should be better. Imagine a day when McDonald's goes out of business because people can pick more delicious foods from public orchards. A microwave burrito that is more nutritious than fresh blueberries. A boil-in bag that makes fresh spinach look like a twinkie. It can happen, if we want it to happen.

    • But I just think this is really amazing.

      I recently came across this factoid: the world population doubled twice in the 20th century, but it won't even double in the 21st century as old people will outnumber young people.

    • nutritious food is too expensive. Also companies are modifiying our food supply to make it addicting and encourage overeating (it's not an accident that eating chips goes well with soda pop). Plus people are turning to junk food to cope with the misery in life and to get a quick boost to get them through a long day.

      When you look at wealthy folk they're rarely overweight. It's poor people getting shafted by a bad system. That's where the hate is coming from...
    • by SQL Error ( 16383 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @01:12AM (#51820839)

      Did any of the visionary Sci-Fi authors of the 20th century see this coming?

      Isaac Asimov wrote a short story - 2430 A.D. [wikipedia.org] - wherein all the problems of hunger and war and disease and poverty had been solved, and as a result the world population was 15 trillion. Quietly horrifying.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        Thankfully that's an extrapolation error. The "green revolution" of increased food production was in full swing when Asimov was writing his early stuff and Asimov was paying more attention to science than most so noticed. The reduction in family sizes due to prosperity was not so obvious until later. Those European immigrant families with ten children making it to adulthood due to the first generation of prosperity were still alive when Asimov started writing and the smaller second generations were not s
    • One of my minor hobbies is making old or ancient recipes straight from manuscripts or books, as close as I can. Something I've noticed is how much they really aren't that good. They're edible, to be sure, and they get you full and they're nutritious because they're always made from scratch. But they just ain't that good. There is almost always some simple optimization that would make them taste much, much better.

      As someone who also tends to make old recipes or experiment with traditional techniques myself, I can point out a number of problems with old and ancient recipes. Many are bland, because spices were expensive. And access to a wide variety of ingredients was seasonal and often only for the very rich. These recipes can be improved by "modernizing" them with accessible ingredients. Same thing with recipes whose ingredients have changed over time -- so-called "heirloom" varieties of vegetables, fruits, and

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        There are reprints and some originals to be had, if you're interested. The Boston School of Cookery made an excellent cookbook but it's quite a bit more than just a cookbook. It includes directions like "over a low fire" or "with a medium coal bed."

  • I recently read an article that showed the method most western governments use to measure who is over weight is actually not that accurate. In fact many professional sports people or gym junkies would be classified as overweight based on the measurement systems used. Trying to define who is overweight with a single measurement doesn't work due to lifestyle and genetic variations.
    • Has the method (however flawed) changed in the last 20 years?
      Because the percentage of people who are obese has gone up in that time.

      • No, the BMI gauge is a simple weight / height squared calculation.
      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        It's just a measure that is not being applied correctly if applied to "sports people or gym junkies". It's a rough metric that was never designed to take people with large amounts of muscle into account. They already know they are healthy so the BMI figure was never intended to apply to very fit people.
    • Re:Not so fast (Score:5, Insightful)

      by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @03:08AM (#51821257) Journal

      I recently read an article that showed the method most western governments use to measure who is over weight is actually not that accurate.

      Define: not that accurate.

      What you do is take a single variable measurement (height doesn't vary). Not only that but it has to be one that more or less everyone has access to and is pretty much impossible to do wrong (i.e. not waist measurement). That leaves... weight.

      So, take weight, height, apply a simpe calculation (or lookup table) and hreshold the result. That's BMI. It's actually pretty good, very good when you look into it deeper. Obviously it's never going to be perfect.

      First, the thresholds for obese are set with a high precision and low recall. I.e. if it says you're obese, you very likely are, if it says you're not, then you still might be. People have crunched the numbers and come up with statistics. If it says you're obese, statistically, there's a 5% chance it's wrong.

      In fact many professional sports people or gym junkies would be classified as overweight based on the measurement systems used

      I looked up a bunch of sports people last time this came up (footballers, tennis players, swimmers, and a few others) and none of them came up as overweight. So, actually plenty of professional athletes come up as normal.

      Secondly, it really doesn't matter. If you're a pro athlete, you'll have better tools available to you than BMI. So, fine, don't use it. If you're into serious lifting (and you have to be WAY serious to get an "obese" BMI) then... you have better tools available to you.

      For the remaining 95% of the population, BMI is just fine.

      It's silly to discount something that's 95% accurate on average and applies least well to the people who have the best ability to use something better.

  • I think I'll leave everyone with. One of the aspects of our food supply nobody every talks about is that we use oil byproducts to replenish soil. That's how we're able to grow so much food. Anyone want to guess what's going to happen when our oil supply dwindles...?
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Yes people have been worrying about that for a while. A frequently used feedstock is gas so it doesn't quite link in to peak oil, there's a bit more gas around than the ultra-convenient liquid oil (not gas, not shale, not tar) that the peak oil problem is about.
  • by germansausage ( 682057 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @12:57AM (#51820777)

    I visit the USA several times a year. I come from a place where obesity is much less common, and much less extreme. These are my observations of the USA. I don't want this to sound like I'm hating on Americans, because some of you are super nice. This is just what I've seen.
     
    The obesity axis runs diagonally, northwest to south east. People in Seattle are not much bigger then people around here. People in Mobile were appallingly huge. My theory is this correlates with biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast.
     
    It also correlates with escalators. In Seattle most people were walking up the escalators, In Mobile nobody walked up escalators.
     
    A much bigger percentage of black people are overweight compared to white people. (Is this poverty related?).
     
    You all drink way too much coke cola. I met people who drank 2 or three cans of soda per day at work and then drank it with every lunch and dinner.
     
    Food servings in some restaurants are stupid big. Plates of spaghetti that two of us couldn't finish. 24 ounce prime rib. (really)
     
    Most appalling thing I saw was whole families of fat people which is super rare here. Like mom and dad both 250 lbs plus and then 2 or 3 huge fat kids. Around here if your ten year old was 150 lbs the child welfare people would be all over you.

    • There's a reason for the huge serving sizes, that is hard to back away from now. After the Great Depression and the austerity of WWII, restaurants started offering larger meals as a value proposition to attract customers. Now it's just expected and it's really difficult to tell people who are accustomed to 24oz steaks that they have to pay nearly the same amount for a 12oz. They'll just feel you're trying to scam them.
      • that is hard to back away from now.

        Such bullshit.
        The Great Depression and WW2 occurred more than two generations ago, and the countries hit hardest by WW2 obviously don't share the same problem.

        No, the problem simply lies in the mentality of 'bigger is better'. Many of the other developed countries just do not share that same (weirdly nationalistic) mindset.
        Take cars, for instance. Even on Last Week Tonight (which could be considered a 'liberal' show), they mock small 'European' cars. That, to me, is a sign of how pervasive the mindset is.

        • Make a restaurant and advertise that you have portion sizes 1/2 everyone elses, see how long you stay in business. It's an ingrained mindset that's carried over for yes, two generations.

          Also this?:

          No, the problem simply lies in the mentality of 'bigger is better'.

          Well duh-huh, that's exactly what I said. Larger sizes were presented as being more value for the buck when eating out, so to American minds, BIG = VALUE.

          As for the countries hit hardest by WWII? Again, duh-huh, they were hit hard by WWII. They didn't have the immediate economic boom the US did afterwards, hav

        • No, the problem simply lies in the mentality of 'bigger is better'.

          This is hardwired into the human brain. Studies show that even babies understand bigger is better.

          http://www.livescience.com/116... [livescience.com]

  • Supersize me worked better than expected. Thanks, McDonald's.
  • ...y'all might bear in mind, here, that the government deliberately changed the definition of what "overweight" is, specifically in order to describe more people as overweight. Now, I'm not saying that people haven't gotten heavier. You look at an old black'n'white movie and everyone looks practically gaunt. But, the statistics have been meddled with by changing the definitions.

    The federal government plans to change its definition of what is a healthy weight, a controversial move that would classify million [washingtonpost.com]

  • We beat world hunger! We beat the over loving shit out of it.
  • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @02:26AM (#51821121)
    "What some may consider more surprising is that more than 25 percent of the world's severely obese men and almost 20 percent of the world's severely obese women are American" I am surprised that the rate is not higher. Who ever is surprised that it is at least 20%/25% has not visited the US in the last 10 years or has not been able to compare to other countries. I have flown all over the world. But when I am in the US, it is always shocking me with abandon.
  • What some may consider more surprising is that more than 25 percent of the world's severely obese men and almost 20 percent of the world's severely obese women are American.

    Surprised that it's not higher?

  • by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @03:44PM (#51824983)

    We kicked the shit out of that horseman and threw him on top of Pestilence. Now we're coming for you DEATH!

    Sadly War seems to linger around, although we've shrunk him down quite a bit.

You see but you do not observe. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes"

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