Weight of the World

The Washington Post analyzes global weight gain since 1980. Basically, the world has become scary-obese in the last 30 years, with the general exception of most African and Asian nations.

The findings, published in three papers in the Lancet, also document considerable progress in recent decades, especially in the industrialized nations.

For example, the United States and Australia now have some of the lowest average blood pressures in the world. The United States, Canada, Sweden and Finland have also achieved large drops in average cholesterol in their populations in the past 20 years. At the same time, some of those places have seen steep increases in weight, as measured by body mass index, or BMI.

Ezzati hopes the information will be used to better understand which public health interventions have worked in recent decades.

“This effort is amazing, and the findings are very, very interesting,” said Christopher Murray, a physician and biostatistician who heads the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, as well as a former colleague of Ezzati’s at Harvard University.

“Once you have something like this, you can shift the conversation to an entirely new level,” Murray said. “You can start having a discussion of why countries have been more or less successful changing these risks, and that’s a hugely important conversation.”

The good news is that blood pressure and cholesterol have gone down in most rich nations!

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