Obesity – A Serious World Health Problem

The World Health Organization has called obesity an epidemic worldwide. According to WHO statistics, the number of people who die each year from complications associated with being overweight or obese is approaching 3 million. The problem is no longer confined to wealthier populations in the developed world: it has now become a matter of increasing concern among people of low and middle incomes in many developing nations, especially in population-dense urban centers.

In the WHO definition, the terms “overweight” and “obese” refer to an excess amount of fat that significantly impairs an individual’s health. The term “overweight” denotes a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater, with the criterion for being “obese” a BMI of 30 or greater. People who are overweight or obese are more likely than their peers are to develop cancer, cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.

Recent studies have found that the rate of obesity in the United States has remained largely unchanged over the past decade. While incidences of obesity in young children from the ages of 2 to 5 decreased by more than 40 percent over that period, the overall rates for adults have stayed the same, or even risen. Today, close to one-third of American adults, and more than 15 percent of children, are clinically obese. In addition, obesity rates for women over age 60, in particular, rose significantly during the period measured by the study.

Medical professionals point to a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as moderate, regular exercise, as key components of a healthy weight-loss program for most people. In certain cases, medication or surgery can assist people struggling with obesity to lose weight when other means cannot.

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