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The rising tide of obesity across the world


Obesity is now an issue for a number of countries across the worldObesity is a growing problem not just in Western countries like the UK and America but across the world. 

We take a look at the facts behind this worldwide issue and what people are doing to tackle it. 

A growing problem 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been tracking the growing obesity problem for decades and has revealed some worrying figures: 

  •          Obesity across the globe has more than doubled since 1980
  •          Last year, more than 1.9 billion adults were classed as overweight
  •          600 million were obese
  •          39% of adults are overweight and 13% are obese
  •          While many people across the world are starving, most of the world's population actually live in countries where being overweight and obese kills more people than being underweight
  •          42 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2013

Countries where obesity is worst 

The majority of countries with the highest obesity levels are Pacific Islands. The top ten most obese countries are:

  1.     American Samoa – 74.6% are obese
  2.     Naura – 71.1%
  3.     Cook Islands – 63.4%
  4.     Tokelau – 63.4%
  5.     Tonga – 57.6%
  6.     Samoa – 54.1%
  7.     Palau – 48.9%
  8.     Kiribati – 46%
  9.     Marshall Islands – 45.4%
  10.     Kuwait – 42%

An Oxford University study into why so many Pacific Islanders are overweight suggest that it is to do with the importing of Western food and cooking techniques and the abandoning of traditional farming and fishing techniques. 

While the Pacific Islands have high levels of obesity, nearby Indonesia has one of the lowest levels with just 3.6% of male adults or 1.1% of female adults being obese.  

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also lists the following nations as some of the most obese: 

  •          United States – Men 33.9% / Women 36.6%
  •          Mexico – Men 26.8% / Women 37.5 %
  •          New Zealand – Men 30.3% / Women 32.2%
  •          Hungary – Men 26.3% / Women 30.4%
  •          Australia – Men 28.4% / Women 28.2%

The UK has obesity levels of 24.4% for men and 25.1% for women. Greece has the highest rate of obesity among children aged 5-to 17 years with 44% of boys and 38% of girls. 

The study found a link between financial distress and obesity. Regardless of income or wealth, those who experience periods of financial hardship are at increased risk of obesity, and the increase is greater for more severe and recurrent hardship.

Weight loss surgery worldwide 

Weight loss - or bariatric - surgery is a popular option to help obese people to lose weight as part of a wider process.

 According to studies, the countries which have high levels of weight loss surgery are: 

  •          Sweden – 9 in 1,000 obese people have surgery
  •          France – 5 in 1,000
  •          America – 3 in 1,000
  •          UK, Germany and Spain – 1 in 1,0000

In the UK, over half (54%) of these procedures are performed in private clinics like Ramsay. 

When it comes to weight loss surgery in the UK, 54% of procedures were gastric bypass surgeries with gastric band surgery performed 21% of the time. The figure for gastric bypasses was 97% in Sweden. 

Research shows that the despite the effectiveness of weight loss surgery, provision is far below demand. 

While some may have concerns over the safety, figures show these to be unfounded. The mortality rate after primary surgery was just 0.07% for gastric bypass, which was much lower than that for many other planned operations. The complication rate overall for primary operations was 2.9%. 

The figures also point to its success, as one year after primary surgery: 

  •          Patients lost 58.4% of their excess weight
  •          64% with pre-operative functional impairment returned to a state of no impairment, meaning they could climb 3 flights of stairs without resting
  •          61% of patients with sleep apnoea were able to come off treatment.

After two years: 

65.1% of patients with type 2 diabetes returned to a state of no indication of diabetes, meaning, in practice, that they were able to stop their diabetic medications.

How to tackle it

Changes to lifestyle - like exercising more and eating more healthily - are the best way to tackle it, although a problem is that many people feel they are beyond the change required. 

Ramsay Healthcare offers a number of weight loss surgery options, which have been proven to help some people lose weight. 

Weight loss surgery is the first part of a sophisticated process at Ramsay, with aftercare the key to successful weight loss. Support is ultimately the one part of your journey that truly does make a real difference to your end goal. 


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