Worldwide, 2.2 billion adults and children suffer from health problems related to being overweight or obese, according to a new study.
In all, about 30% of the world's population is affected by weight problems, with 10% listed as obese. People were classified as overweight if their body mass index was in the 25 to 29 range, while obesity is defined as anyone with a BMI of 30 or more.
The findings represent "a growing and disturbing global public health crisis," said the authors of the paper, which was published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Among the 20 most-populous countries, the highest level of obesity among children and young adults was in the U.S., at nearly 13%. Egypt topped the list for adult obesity at about 35%, while the lowest rates were in Bangladesh and Vietnam, respectively, at 1%.
The U.S., with 79.4 million, had the most obese adults, followed by China.
Obesity and inactivity could someday account for more cancer deaths than smoking if current trends continue. Richard Wender, a physician and chief cancer control officer at the American Cancer Society (ACS), said last week.
“Excess body weight is one of the most challenging public health problems of our time, affecting nearly one in every three people,” said Dr. Ashkan Afshin, the paper’s lead author and a professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle.
The research found obesity has tripled in youth and young adults in countries such as China, Brazil and Indonesia. That was "the most worrisome finding" in the study, according to an editorial that accompanied the report.
That suggests future increases in diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease and other health problems in much of the world.
Obesity, inactivity could outpace smoking in cancer death risk
The massive study, which involved more than 2,000 health experts, spanned 195 countries and territories and covered the years 1980 through 2015.
“People who shrug off weight gain do so at their own risk — risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes cancer, and other life-threatening conditions,” said study co-author Dr. Christopher Murray.
The study was funded by the Gates Foundation.
Contributing: Associated Press