2017 – The update on obesity
Obesity rates keep increasing. Currently, they have tripled since 1975. This post is an attempt to describe the magnitude of the problem and where we currently stand.
The risks of obesity
Before we look at the rates of obesity it is good to know why obesity is such a risk. Obesity means a large surplus of weight compared to someone’s height. The increased puts extra stress on the cardiovascular system and the musculoskeletal system. This added stress causes mainly heart disease, stroke and osteoarthritis. Besides these ‘wear-and-tear’ diseases also diabetes mellitus type 2 is a highly common disease linked to obesity. Additionally, obesity increases the risk of some cancers. The rule for these diseases is that the risk increases with higher Body Mass Index.
The rates of obesity
The Organistation for Economic Co-operation and Development has brought out a recent report on obesity statistics. The average rate of obesity for all the member countries (35 as of today) was found to be 19.5%. The Asian countries Korea and Japan have the lowest rates of obesity with 5.3% and 3.7% respectively. On top of the list is the USA with a massive 38.2%.
If we look at the predictions for the coming decade there is little positive to be seen. If our approach to living and food does not change we see rising obesity across the board. The USA is expected to see obesity rates of more than 45% in 2030.
The economics of obesity
Increasing rates of obesity will increase the occurrence of the diseases mentioned in the first paragraph. The people who suffer from these diseases will turn to the healthcare system. If we narrow the economics down to diabetes only we already observe a massive increase in spending. People with diabetes cost roughly 2.3 times more than those without diabetes.
Assuming the rise of obesity corresponds with the rise of diabetes we can make the following projection.
Obesity increases from 38.2% to 47% in 2030, an increase of 23%. We assume the occurrence of diabetes also increases by 23%. Taking into account population predictions for 2030, we get an increase of almost 13% of healthcare expenditure in 2030, of which 2.45% is solely attributed to diabetes and the rest to the larger population. A report from 2015 shows that the USA already spends 16.9% of its GDP on healthcare.
What will the extra costs be if other prevalent diseases, i.e. cardiovascular diseases, are added to the equation? Note that there will be some correlation with those who have diabetes since the mentioned diseases are all major risk factors for obesity.
Hope for the Future
To end on a positive note, let’s take a look at the developments for countering the prevalence of obesity.
Make people aware of what they are eating. This is the idea behind front-of-pack (FOP) labeling. As the name says it the labels are put on the front of the package. This type of labeling is already mandatory in some countries since recent years. Labeling is also being introduced in restaurants. An example from New York City is warning labels for dishes that contain more than 2300 mg sodium.
Mass media campaigns
Nowadays nearly every country tells people to eat fruit and vegetables. Healthy eating and active lifestyles are promoted through many types of media. Free healthy recipes, meal planners, activity planners, broadcasted messages discouraging soda consumption, mass media campaigns to lower calorie dense food intake and many more.
If you are going to send a healthy message, then you also want to decrease the effect of the unhealthy message. In 2015 Australia banned the advertising of junk food and alcohol from municipal buses. An example from Norway is regulations that have been put in place to ban the marketing of unhealthy food to children under 13. Many other countries such as Brazil, Spain, Poland, Latvia, Chile, Denmark and Slovenia put this focus on restricting unhealthy advertisements to children.
Eat healthily and keep active!