The World Obesity Atlas released by the World Obesity Federation has indicated that obesity rates among children and adolescents are skyrocketing globally, necessitating urgent preventive measures to ensure healthier future generations.

The spiking obesity rates across the world revealed massive gaps in healthcare and nutrition, with the poorest populations most adversely affected.

Statistics shown by the Atlas noted that 79 per cent of adults overweight and obese will live in Low-and Middle-Income Countries by 2035, 88 per cent of children overweight and obese will be living in LMICs by 2035, and it is projected that the number of adults living with obesity will rise from 0.81 billion in 2020 to 1.53 billion in 2035.

World Obesity Day is observed globally on March 4th to end the growing global obesity crisis, and it is an opportune time for governments to reaffirm their commitment to tackling this global challenge and strive towards a healthier and more equitable future for all.

The World Obesity Federation is the only global organisation focused exclusively on obesity. It brings together member organisations dedicated to solving the problems of obesity, representing professional members of the scientific, medical, research and advocacy communities from over 90 regional and national obesity associations.

The World Obesity Federation is a lead partner to global agencies on obesity, including the World Health Organisation, with which it has formal consultative status, approved by the World Health Assembly.

“One of the key findings is that no area of the world is immune from the effects of obesity and the poorest suffer the most, at ever younger ages.

“Contrary to public perception, lower-income countries are increasingly leading the way in terms of early disability and death due to obesity and the diseases it is driving, including diabetes and heart disease,” a statement released by the Federation ahead of the WOD noted.

The Atlas identified a clear link between greenhouse gas emissions that accompany a country’s development, and rising rates of obesity–both in the Global South and the Global North–articulating in stark terms the interrelationship between environmental factors and obesity.

The Atlas also provided compelling evidence of how the lack of obesity care in health systems is driving all the major Non-Communicable Diseases, including cancer and diabetes.

“The release of the 2024 Global Atlas highlights the imperative for a paradigm shift in our approach to tackling obesity. We need to stop false tradeoffs between food and health, young and old, developed and developing country, and recognize this is a serious, global challenge that calls for multisectoral solutions and coordinated action,” said the Chief Executive Officer of the World Obesity Federation, Johanna Ralston.

The new 2024 Atlas underscored how factors driving economic development are contributing to obesity trends.

Shockingly, of the global deaths attributed to high Body Mass Index, the Atlas noted that the population measure of obesity, 78 per cent occurs among adults in LMICs, eclipsing the 22 per cent in high-income nations.

Similarly, it said 80 per cent of Disability-Adjusted Life Years are attributed to high BMI burden adults in LMICs, compared to a mere 20 per cent in high-income countries.

“It’s a common misconception that obesity – and its myriad health implications – are only limited to certain countries in the Global North,’ said Director of the Healthier Societies Program at the George Institute for Global Health, Kent Buse.

“But the barriers to healthy and affordable foods, to active transport and much-needed medical support are not limited to what people likely consider to be ‘rich’ countries and governments all over the world need to implement policies that help communities gain access to healthy food and responsive health systems now. The projections in the Global Atlas make very clear what the alternative is and it is a frightening prospect.”

The 2024 Atlas established a direct correlation between obesity and planetary health. Countries
experiencing rapid economic growth are susceptible to increased levels of BMI and in turn, there are a number of environmental consequences that arise from that increase.

“With increasing economic development, we see increased levels of high BMI. We also see a similar correlation between high BMI and GHG emissions, increased urban population, plastic waste usage, and insufficient physical activity,” said WOF President, Louise Baur.

“Furthermore, obesity rates are rising—at a very concerning rate—among children and adolescents globally. Measures targeting this demographic are crucial to ensure healthier future generations.”