Shocking Facts About Obesity You Haven’t Heard Before

The US has higher childhood obesity rates than 194 countries—and other startling facts.

Medically reviewed in May 2021

You may know there’s an obesity epidemic, but you might not know how truly shocking the numbers are. A 2017 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine evaluated 195 different countries and found that 107.7 million children and 603.7 million adults are obese worldwide, based on data from 2015. In fact, obesity rates have just about doubled since 1980 in over 70 countries.

Curious how the United States fared? Here are five surprising facts about the current state of obesity worldwide:

  • The US has the highest level of childhood obesity globally.
  • China and the US have the highest numbers of obese adults.
  • Women are more likely than men to be obese—both in the US and worldwide.
  • Between 1990 and 2015, deaths related to high body mass index (BMI), a measurement based on your weight and height, increased from 41.9 to 53.7 per 100,000 people.
  • Seventy percent of BMI-related deaths are caused by heart disease.

Obesity can shorten your life by nearly 10 years, and in 2016 a study found it’s responsible for one in five deaths. But these deaths are preventable. If you’re overweight, there are people and treatments that can help. Consider these 11 quick kitchen tips to jump-start your weight loss and read about medical options such as bariatric surgery.

Need help finding a doctor? Locate a bariatric specialist near you. 

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