More than one billion people live with obesity today, according to a global analysis with BIPS participation

A study recently published in the Lancet, in which BIPS was involved, provides new insights into the global rise in obesity and the simultaneous decline in underweight. The research findings point to a worrying global health trend and call for action.

Slim woman in large pants.

Less underweight, more overweight: a large-scale study shows the trends in malnutrition.

Key findings

- Obesity rates in children and adolescents have quadrupled worldwide between 1990 and 2022, while obesity rates in adults have more than doubled.

- Over the same period, rates of underweight in children, adolescents and adults have declined, resulting in obesity being the most common form of malnutrition in many countries.

- The countries with the highest combined rates of underweight and obesity in 2022 were island nations in the Pacific and Caribbean, and countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

- The study highlights the urgent need to fundamentally change policies to tackle overweight and obesity and further reduce the number of underweight people, especially in the poorest parts of the world.

Obesity rate quadruples among children and adolescents

The analysis of global data estimates that the obesity rate among children and adolescents worldwide in 2022 was four times higher than in 1990. Among adults, the obesity rate has more than doubled for women and almost tripled for men. In total, 159 million children and adolescents and 879 million adults were living with obesity in 2022.

The new study was conducted by the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC) in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO). Researchers analyzed weight and height measurements of over 220 million people aged five years or older (63 million people aged five to 19 years and 158 million aged 20 years or older) from more than 190 countries. More than 1,500 researchers contributed to the study, which looked at body mass index (BMI) to understand how overweight and underweight have changed worldwide between 1990 and 2022.

Adults were classified as overweight if they had a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or more, and underweight if their BMI was below 18.5 kg/m2. For school-age children (5 to 9 years) and adolescents (10 to 19 years), BMI was used to define overweight and underweight according to age and gender, as height and weight increase significantly during childhood and adolescence.

The study underlines the need to strengthen measures against overweight while continuing the fight against underweight. The research findings will serve as a basis for policy decisions and the development of effective prevention and intervention strategies. BIPS has contributed its expertise to the global analysis through its participation in the NCD-RisC.