(CNN) — Obesity is a bigger health crisis globally than hunger, and the leading cause of disabilities around the world, according to a new report published Thursday in the British medical journal The Lancet.
Nearly 500 researchers from 50 countries compared health data from 1990 through 2010 for the Global Burden of Disease report, revealing what they call a massive shift in global health trends.
“We discovered that there’s been a huge shift in mortality. Kids who used to die from infectious disease are now doing extremely well with immunization,” said Ali Mokdad, co-author of the study and professor of global health at theInstitute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which led the collaborative project.
“However, the world is now obese and we’re seeing the impact of that.”
The report revealed that every country, with the exception of those in sub-Saharan Africa, faces alarming obesity rates — an increase of 82% globally in the past two decades. Middle Eastern countries are more obese than ever, seeing a 100% increase since 1990.
“The so-called ‘Western lifestyle’ is being adapted all around the world, and the impacts are all the same,” Mokdad said.
The health burden from high body mass indexes now exceeds that due to hunger, according to the report.
And for the first time, noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, stroke and heart disease top the list of leading causes of years spent sick or injured.
“All these problems are tied to obesity,” Mokdad said. “We’re even seeing a large percentage of people suffering back pain now. If we could lower the obesity rates, we’d see the numbers of noncommunicable diseases and pain decrease as well.”
People are living longer than projected in 1990 — on average, 10.7 more years for men, and 12.6 more years for women. But for many of them, the quality of life during those years is not good. On average, people are plagued by illness or pain during the last 14 years of life, according to the study.