Obesity-a growing epidemic & relation to climate

Twelve years from now, 4 billion people, or more than half the world’s population, will be overweight or obese, according to a recent report. While obesity is an issue more commonly associated with high-income countries, the World Obesity Federation (WOF) points out that lower income countries are facing rapid increases in its prevalence. The economic and environmental costs of obesity aside, there is also the impact on the climate to contend with in the battle of the bulge. A $4tn crisis

The World Obesity Atlas 2023 says the cost of obesity-related issues would be more than $4 trillion globally by 2035. Apart from health, high BMI – obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) equal to or more than 30 – also impacts economic productivity, including through premature retirement or death. The biggest presence of obese people will continue to be in high-income countries, the report says, but it is the low and lower middle income countries that are likely to experience major increases in the prevalence of obesity by 2035. The total economic costs linked to a rise in obesity in these countries would be more than $350 billion but the burden for upper middle and high  income countries would be close to $4 trillion. The share of obese people in middle-income countries could jump to 66% among men and 70% for women even as the rate of increase in obesity prevalence appears to be slowing down in some rich countries. The chief reasons for rising obesity in poorer countries include a shift towards more highly processed foods and greater levels of sedentary behaviour.

 What climate change has to do with it.                        


 Rising temperature and rainfall due to climate change could lead to higher obesity rates by hampering physical activity, studies say. The impact of extreme weather on fruit and vegetable production could also make it harder to maintain a healthy diet owing to rising prices. Higher prices could prompt a shift towards processed foods, which are linked to obesity. A 2019 Lancet report says severe food insecurity and hunger are associated with lower obesity prevalence, but mild to moderate food insecurity is “associated with higher obesity prevalence”. Another 2019 study says obesity is linked to about “20% greater GHG emissions compared with the normal weight state”. The total impact of obesity “may be extra emissions of (about) 700 megatons per year of CO2 equivalent. about 1. 6% of worldwide GHG emissions”.

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