How should we tackle the global obesity epidemic?

The Real Story

16-11-2023 • 48 mins

Over 1 billion people worldwide are obese, according to the World Health Organization. If current trends continue, half the world could be obese or overweight by 2035. The WHO refers to it as an epidemic. Recent data shows that over 40% of Americans are living with obesity. But obesity is not just a problem in Western countries: In China, rapid economic growth has been accompanied by an alarming rise in obesity. There have been major changes to lifestyle, diet and exercise habits. Recent data suggest that more than half of Chinese adults are now overweight or obese, with obesity rates likely to increase. In India, obesity is spreading and experts warn of a health emergency unless it’s tackled urgently.

Recently new injectable weight-loss drugs have emerged that show promising results: Wegovy is an obesity treatment that is taken once a week which tricks people into thinking that they are already full, so they end up eating less and losing weight. The drug was approved by regulators in the US in 2021. It was also approved for use in the UK on the national health service earlier this year after research suggested users could shed more than 10% of their body weight. But it’s an expensive drug and in trials, users often put weight back on after stopping treatment. If action is not taken, more than half the world's population will be classed as obese or overweight by 2035, the World Obesity Federation warns. More than four billion people will be affected, with rates rising fastest among children, its report says. Low or middle-income countries in Africa and Asia are expected to see the greatest rises.

What policies should governments put in place to curb obesity? What are the wider systemic factors that contribute to unhealthy eating and obesity? What can be done to tackle the global obesity epidemic?

Shaun Ley is joined by:

Dr Binayak Sinha, an endocrinologist with a special interest in obesity and diabetes. Rachel Nugent is associate professor at the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington. Dr Fatima Cody Stanford studies obesity at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in the United States.

Also featuring: Julianne Williams from the Europe and Central Asia regional office at The World Health Organisation. Grace Victory, blogger and body positivity activist. Stephanie Yeboah, body positivity campaigner; and Bethany Rutter, a writer who blogs about plus size fashion.

Produced by Max Horberry and Ellen Otzen

(Photo: Getty)

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