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Obesity bigger threat than hunger in world today, journal says

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 14th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It's a case of being too much instead of too little. Obesity, the state of being more than 30 pounds overweight, has become a much larger health problem in the world today than hunger. Being overweight is the leading cause of disabilities in the world today, according to a new report published this week in the British medical journal The Lancet.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - There has been a massive shift in health trends, researchers say. Five hundred doctors in fifty countries examined date from the years 1990 to 2012, and they found it was a matter of too much food - and not from starvation, that is wreaking havoc on humanity today. The health burden from high body mass indexes now exceeds that due to hunger, according to the report.

"We discovered that there's been a huge shift in mortality. Kids who used to die from infectious disease are now doing extremely well with immunization," Ali Mokdad, co-author of the study says. A professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Mokdad and his team led the collaborative study.

"However, the world is now obese and we're seeing the impact of that."

The study found that every country on the globe - with the exception of those in the sub-Saharan section of Africa, has alarming obesity rates. There has been an overwhelming increase of 82 percent globally in the past two decades. In particular, Middle Eastern countries are more obese than ever, seeing a 100 percent increase since 1990.

"The so-called 'Western lifestyle' is being adapted all around the world, and the impacts are all the same," Mokdad said.

Non-communicable diseases, for the very first time such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease top the list of leading causes of years spent sick or injured.

"All these problems are tied to obesity," Mokdad said. "We're even seeing a large percentage of people suffering back pain now. If we could lower the obesity rates, we'd see the numbers of non-communicable diseases and pain decrease as well."

People are living longer than projected in 1990, with 10.7 more years for men, and 12.6 more years for women. However, for many, the quality of life during those years is not good. People now find themselves plagued by illness or pain during the last 14 years of life, according to the study.

Researchers credit advances in medical technology for longer lives.

"We've figured out how to keep the person who suffered a stroke alive, but then they're living disabled for years afterward. That's not the quality of life that person expected," Mokdad said.

In Western countries, deaths from heart disease are down 70 percent. However, the number of people diagnosed with heart disease is still increasing at alarming rates.

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