More people in the world are now obese than underweight

The world faces an epidemic of severe obesity

About a fifth of all adults around the world and a third of those in the UK will be obese by 2025, with potentially disastrous consequences for their health, according to a study.


Underweight and severe and morbid obesity are associated with highly elevated risks of adverse health outcomes. We estimated trends in mean body-mass index (BMI), which characterises its population distribution, and in the prevalences of a complete set of BMI categories for adults in all countries.

Trends in adult body-mass index in 200 countries from 1975 to 2014: a pooled analysis of 1698 population-based measurement studies with 19·2 million participants, The Lancet, 2016.

We analysed, with use of a consistent protocol, population-based studies that had measured height and weight in adults aged 18 years and older. We applied a Bayesian hierarchical model to these data to estimate trends from 1975 to 2014 in mean BMI and in the prevalences of BMI categories (<18·5 kg/m2 [underweight], 18·5 kg/m2 to

We used 1698 population-based data sources, with more than 19·2 million adult participants (9·9 million men and 9·3 million women) in 186 of 200 countries for which estimates were made. Global age-standardised mean BMI increased from 21·7 kg/m2 (95% credible interval 21·3–22·1) in 1975 to 24·2 kg/m2 (24·0–24·4) in 2014 in men, and from 22·1 kg/m2 (21·7–22·5) in 1975 to 24·4 kg/m2 (24·2–24·6) in 2014 in women. Regional mean BMIs in 2014 for men ranged from 21·4 kg/m2 in central Africa and south Asia to 29·2 kg/m2 (28·6–29·8) in Polynesia and Micronesia; for women the range was from 21·8 kg/m2 (21·4–22·3) in south Asia to 32·2 kg/m2 (31·5–32·8) in Polynesia and Micronesia. Over these four decades, age-standardised global prevalence of underweight decreased from 13·8% (10·5–17·4) to 8·8% (7·4–10·3) in men and from 14·6% (11·6–17·9) to 9·7% (8·3–11·1) in women. South Asia had the highest prevalence of underweight in 2014, 23·4% (17·8–29·2) in men and 24·0% (18·9–29·3) in women. Age-standardised prevalence of obesity increased from 3·2% (2·4–4·1) in 1975 to 10·8% (9·7–12·0) in 2014 in men, and from 6·4% (5·1–7·8) to 14·9% (13·6–16·1) in women. 2·3% (2·0–2·7) of the world’s men and 5·0% (4·4–5·6) of women were severely obese (ie, have BMI ≥35 kg/m2). Globally, prevalence of morbid obesity was 0·64% (0·46–0·86) in men and 1·6% (1·3–1·9) in women.

One fifth of adults worldwide will be obese by 2025, predicts study, The Guardian, 1 April 2016.

If post-2000 trends continue, the probability of meeting the global obesity target is virtually zero. Rather, if these trends continue, by 2025, global obesity prevalence will reach 18% in men and surpass 21% in women; severe obesity will surpass 6% in men and 9% in women. Nonetheless, underweight remains prevalent in the world’s poorest regions, especially in south Asia.

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