My, How The World Has Changed

By The Fat Professor, Grant

If you are old enough you might sometimes look back at your old school photos – you’ll immediately notice something striking; that once upon a time we weren’t so fat.

Things changed pretty quickly. So it’s no surprise that the biggest study ever done regarding changes in worldwide obesity, shows massive changes in how big we are. Just published in the Lancet, they show the 40 year changes since 1975.

So here’s a class photo form 1974.FullSizeRender+(15)

Yes, we have changed. Why? Probably because we ate more and more grains, refined carbs, and more and more sugar. The low fat message was spread loud and clear, ‘Big Food’ took control and here we are. Our nutrition guidelines were well intended, and still are. But they’re just wrong.

We are going to need to think long and hard about how we see this as a society. My bet is a sugar tax is coming. Perhaps we can use some of the proceeds to help fund new nutrition guidelines, and help health promotion experts do better.

Here’s the link to the Lancet Paper and a few striking slides. China now has the most obesity on a total numbers basis.

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

It’s interesting to reflect and look at actual data on how we have changed over the past 40 years. If you are middle aged or older, you were born into a time when underweight was the major problem in the world. This problem of being too fat just wasn’t a major issue.



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Added value of this study
This study provides the longest and most complete picture of trends in adult BMI including, for the first time, in underweight and severe and morbid obesity, which are of enormous clinical and public health interest. We were able to robustly depict this rich picture by reanalysing and pooling hundreds of population-based sources with measurements of height and weight according to a common protocol. We also systematically projected recent trends into the future, and assessed the probability of the global obesity target being achieved.

Implications of all the available evidence
The world has transitioned from an era when underweight prevalence was more than double that of obesity, to one in which more people are obese than underweight. However, underweight remains a public health problem in the world’s poorest regions—namely south Asia and central and east Africa. If present trends continue, not only will the world not meet the global obesity target, but severe obesity will also surpass underweight women by 2025.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Jayne Gale says:

    Have you seen Paul jaminet’s talk on obesity increasing in a log normal pattern since at least 1880 for all countries and species associated with humans even lab animals under controlled conditions? It’s really worth a look

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