Half the world will be overweight or obese within 12 years if prevention, treatment and support do not improve.
The warning has come from the World Obesity Federation, which has also said the cost of such mass obesity could be as much as £4tr annually by 2035, with rates rising especially fast among children.
The prediction has been made within the federation’s World Obesity Atlas 2023. The £4tr figure equates to almost 3% of global GDP, or comparable to the impact of Covid-19 on world economies in 2020.
Drilling down, 51% (or over four billion people) will be living with either overweight or obesity by 2035 if current trends prevail. One in four people (or nearly two billion) will have obesity.
Childhood obesity could more than double by 2035 from 2020 levels). Rates are predicted to double among boys to 208 million (a 100% increase) and more than double among girls to 175 million (a 125% increase).
Lower-income countries are facing rapid increases in obesity prevalence, the federation has warned. Of the 10 countries with the greatest expected increases in obesity globally (for both adults and children), nine are from low- or lower-middle income countries. All are from either Asia or Africa.
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The World Obesity Federation has as a result called for comprehensive national action plans to help countries act on World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations for the prevention and management of obesity.
However, the federation has also acknowledged the impact of climate change, Covid-19 restrictions, new pandemics, and chemical pollutants on overweight and obesity rates.
Without ambitious and coordinated action to address systemic issues, predicted obesity rates could rise still further, it has said.
Professor Louise Baur, president of the World Obesity Federation, said: “This year’s Atlas is a clear warning that by failing to address obesity today, we risk serious repercussions in the future.
“It is particularly worrying to see obesity rates rising fastest among children and adolescents. Governments and policymakers around the world need to do all they can to avoid passing health, social, and economic costs on to the younger generation.
“That means looking urgently at the systems and root factors that contribute to obesity, and actively involving young people in the solutions. If we act together now, we have the opportunity to help billions of people in the future,” she added.