Geneva: Over a third of the world's population is obese, a study published in the WHO bulletin has said while asserting that governments need to make the food supply healthier to reduce risk of problems linked to obesity.
As a person with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more is considered obese, 37 per cent of men and 38 per cent of women are overweight, a study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation (WHO), said.
Between 1980 and 2013, the proportion of adults globally who were overweight - those with a BMI of 25 kg/m2 or more - increased from 28.8 per cent to 36.9 per cent in men, and from 29.8 per cent to 38 per cent in women, it said, adding that obesity and overweight linked to increased food energy supply.
The study is important because it provides more evidence that governments need to implement policies to make the food supply healthier and, in turn, reduce obesity, which is a risk factor for many health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
The study, by authors based in New Zealand and the US, analysed increases in the food energy supply and obesity in 69 countries (24 high-, 27 middle- and 18 low-income) and found that both body weight and food energy supply had increased in 56 (81 per cent) of them between 1971 and 2010.
They found that the number of overweight and obese people is increasing globally in step with increases in consumption of energy dense or high-calorie foods such as processed foods.
In 45 (65 per cent) countries, the increase in available calories was enough or more than enough to explain the concurrent increase in body weight.
"We know that other factors have also changed over these decades such as increased urbanisation, car dependence and sedentary occupations, which are also contributing to the global obesity epidemic," said lead author Stefanie Vandevijvere, senior research fellow in global health and food policy at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
"However, our study shows that oversupply of available calories is a likely driver of overconsumption of those calories and can readily explain the weight gain seen in most countries," she said.
"Much of the increase in available calories over the decades has come from ultra-processed food products, which are highly palatable, relatively inexpensive and widely advertised, making overconsumption of calories very easy," Vandevijvere added.
WHO's 194 Member States had agreed on the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases at the World Health Assembly in May 2013.