Richard G. Petty, MD

The Evolving Obesity Pandemic

Here is something that is not too much of a shock. At least it isn’t until you look at the numbers.

People are getting heavier throughout the world, with the possible exception of south and east Asia. These are the conclusions of a one-day global “snapshot:” a single day in 2006 when doctors and nurses in 63 countries across five continents – not even including the United States – found that between half and two-thirds of men and women in were overweight or obese.

The study is being published in the journal Circulation and included 168,159 people. The initial results were published last year in the European Heart Journal, but this new report puts more “flesh” on the original report.

The International Day for the Evaluation of Obesity (IDEA) study looked at two measures of fatness – waist circumference and body mass index or BMI.

A BMI (weight in kg divided by square of height in meters) of 18.5 to 25 is considered healthy. A BMI over 25 is considered overweight and greater than 30 is obese. I shall have something to say about BMI in a moment.

In Eastern Asia 7% were obese, compared with:

  • 36% of people in Canada
  • 38% of women in Middle Eastern countries
  • 40% in South Africa

Canada and South Africa led in the percentage of overweight people, with an average BMI of 29 among both men and women in Canada and 29 among South African women.

In Northern Europe men had an average BMI of 27 and women 26. In other words they were just into the overweight “category.” In southern Europe, the average BMI was 28. In Australia BMI for men was 28 and 27.5 for women. In Latin America the average BMI was just under 28.

Waist circumference was also high – 56% of men and 71% of women carried too much weight around their middle.

The overall frequency of heart disease was 16% in men and 13% in women. In Eastern European men, many of whom still smoke, the rates of heart disease, 27%, and women, 24%. By comparison in Canada the rate of heart disease in women was 8%, and in men 16%.

The rates of diabetes varied across regions. Overall, 13% of men and 11% of women were diagnosed with diabetes.

This means that the rest of the world is catching up with the United States, long considered the country with the worst weight problem.

An estimated two-thirds of Americans are overweight and a third of these are obese. In the US, the lifetime risk of developing diabetes, is also high – 33% for men and 38% for women.

In studies like these, a BMI over 25 is considered to be overweight and greater than 30 is obese. I have commented before about the limitations of using BMI, but it remains a way of getting an overall picture of what is happening in the body.

The findings are deeply worrying.

It is well known that increasing weight, particularly the amount of fat carried inside the abdomen – not the “lovers’ handles!” – increase the risk of coronary artery disease, Type II diabetes and other diseases including some cancers. That point about the “intra-abdominal” fat I all important. For years we have been told that even small increases in weight can do us harm, but that is not completely accurate. It is where the fat is deposited, not only how much we have. It is only when people become extremely obese all over that the risks of many diseases begin to climb.

The moral of the story?

Watch you the size of your abdomen, and stay tuned as I give you more advice about the Whole Person ways to control you weight.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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