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Obesity is a Bigger Problem Globally than Hunger: Report

Update Date: Dec 14, 2012 12:56 PM EST

The number of obese people is rapidly increasing and more and more research work is done to find a solution for the epidemic that entails many health problems along with it. Obesity is a problem not only in adults but in children as well. From junk food to video games, many factors have been blamed on the additional pounds that people are increasingly adding to their frames.

According to a new report, obesity has now become a bigger health crisis globally than hunger. It is also the leading cause of disabilities around the world, the report says.

For the finished report, about 500 researchers from 50 countries around the globe compared health data of 20 years (from 1990 to 2010) for the Global Burden of Disease report. The researchers say that the findings have revealed a massive shift in global health trends.

"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 and professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which led the collaborative project, was quoted as saying by CNN.

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

According to the global report, all the countries in the world, except the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, face an alarming obesity rate -- an increase of 82 percent globally in the last 20 years.

Middle Eastern countries have revealed a 100 percent increase in obesity since 1990.

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

Apparently, the health issues caused by obesity are now higher than the health issues caused by hunger around the world, according to the report.

Also, for the first time, non-communicable diseases like diabetes, stroke and heart diseases have topped the list of leading causes of years spent by patients being 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 noncommunicable diseases and pain decrease as well."

The life expectation of people has increased around the world, with men living 10.7 years longer and women living 12.6 more years longer when compared to 1990. However, the quality of life lived is not good, with people, on an average, spending the last 14 years of their lives in pain or illness. This is obviously the result of advancement of medical science.

"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, while deaths from heart diseases have gone down by 70 percent, the diagnosis of the same is increasing at an alarming rate.

Non-communicable diseases are a global challenge of "epidemic proportions," Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization said, according to the report.

The report further said that preventing the diseases rather than treating them could prove beneficial to the economy as well.

The report was published Thursday in British medical journal The Lancet.

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