Global obesity doubles and hypertension hits 1 in 3, WHO says

Posted May 16, 2012, at 8:53 p.m.

GENEVA — Obesity levels doubled in every region of the world between 1980 and 2008, spurring rates of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer that now account for almost two in three deaths globally, the World Health Organization said in a report.

About 500 million people are obese, the Geneva-based WHO said in its annual World Health Statistics Wednesday. About 26 percent of adults in the Americas are obese, making it the world’s fattest region, compared with 3 percent of adults in Southeast Asia, according to the report. Women are more likely to be obese than men.

The WHO is working to develop voluntary targets for reducing tobacco and alcohol use and improve diets to avert the rising tide of diseases that aren’t passed from person to person that a study last year said will cost the global economy $47 trillion over the next 20 years.

“This report is further evidence of the dramatic increase in the conditions that trigger heart disease and other chronic illnesses, particularly in low- and middle-income countries,” Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director general, said in a statement.

About one in three adults worldwide has high blood pressure and one in 10 has diabetes, the report said.

There was some good news. The number of maternal deaths has been reduced by 47 percent to 290,000 in 2010 from 540,000 in 1990, and deaths of children under 5 years fell to 7.6 million in 2010 from 10 million a decade earlier.

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