Map of Obesity Prevalence in 2013
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IHME Global Obesity and Overweight Visualization, 2014
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By Betty Baboujon 

Despite decades of warnings, obesity poses a growing problem worldwide. Once it was thought to afflict just affluent countries, where excess can easily become a way of life. In reality, obesity is a global issue affecting poorer countries on a grand scale. While there has been progress in reducing hunger globally, the next stage doesn’t look too promising.

One-third of the world’s population—more than 2.1 billion people—is obese or overweight, with the majority in developing countries. What’s more, these countries are grappling with what health experts call the “double burden of malnutrition”: under-nutrition and over-nutrition. So while one part of the population goes hungry, another is obese and overweight, becoming more prone to chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.

A study published this month in The Lancet by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation says high body-mass index is the world’s fourth-largest risk factor for disability and death. According to the International Diabetes Federation, developing countries will have the biggest jumps in the number of people with diabetes—globally, it is expected to rise from 415 million in 2015 to 642 million in 2040.

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