Epidemiology of Obesity

Obesity is a complex multifactorial disease. The worldwide prevalence of overweight and obesity has doubled since 1980 to an extent that nearly a third of the world's population is now classified as overweight or obese. Obesity rates have increased in all ages and both sexes irrespective of geographical locality, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, although the prevalence of obesity is generally greater in older persons and women. This trend was similar throughout the regions and countries, although absolute prevalence rates of overweight and obesity varied widely. For some developed countries, the prevalence rates of obesity seem to have levelled off during the past few years. Body mass index (BMI) is basically used to define overweight and obesity in epidemiological studies. However, BMI has decreased sensitivity and there is a large inter-individual variability in the per cent body fat for any given BMI value, partly attributed to age, sex, and ethnicity. For occurrence, Asians have greater per cent body fat than Caucasians for the same BMI. Greater cardio metabolic risk has also been associated with the localization of excess fat in the visceral adipose tissue and ectopic depots (such as muscle and liver), as well as in cases of increased fat to lean mass ratio. These data suggest that obesity may be far more common and requires more urgent attention than what large epidemiological studies suggest. Simply relying on BMI to assess its prevalence could hinder future interventions aimed at obesity prevention and control.



  • Weight impact in obesity
  • Obesity throughout the world
  • Centres of Diseases Control and Prevention

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