A New Pandemic: Globesity

The obesity pandemic is expanding by leaps and bounds. Can we do something to stop it?
A New Pandemic: Globesity
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 09 January, 2023

The World Health Organization (WHO) has coined the term globesity to refer to the obesity pandemic that has been present for more than four decades all over the planet. this is a serious health problem that has particular consequences for individuals, but also for the community in different countries.

The concept of globesity first appeared in the early 2000s. The WHO coined it after determining that obesity was one of the main risk factors for mortality at the end of the last century.

The data that we will analyze below make this more than evident. There are more and more obese people today, and this translates into a poorer quality of life for this group, as well as a higher cost for our healthcare systems.

The data on global obesity

The prevalence of obesity in the world has tripled since 1975. This means that in about 40 years we have exponentially increased the number of people who are much over the recommended weight.

In the United States alone, according to data from the American Obesity Association, 42% of adults are obese. In Spain, it is estimated that 37% of adults are overweight and 17% are obese.

If we look at the pediatric age group, the alarm is greater. The existence of high rates of obesity in children indicates that the future is heading towards an increase in this pandemic.

39 million children under 5 years of age are overweight in the world. That’s already a lot. But it does not seem too much if we stop to observe that 340 million children between 5 and 19 years of age are obese or overweight.

This pandemic has a component of social inequality, and it is particularly prevalent among children. According to data from UNICEF and the Inter-American Heart Foundation, there is a 31% higher risk of being obese among children with a low socioeconomic level than among their upper-middle-class peers.

Globalization affects health systems and countries’ economies because it increases the expenditure that must be allocated to their care and concomitant pathologies. In 2010, 315.8 billion dollars were spent on the treatment of diseases based on obesity.

globesity in children
Obese children are at greater risk of suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes in the future.

The obesogenic environment

The idea that we live in societies with obesogenic environments is well-known in the world of science. Various medical and sociological studies stipulate that since the 1980s, more and more populations are urban, sedentary, and have poorer eating habits.

This is attributed, above all, to globalization. Sedentary lifestyles are almost uniformly imposed, and advertisements prevail that determine what we eat. At the same time, economic changes that increase inequalities cause obesity to spread, and to do so in the most vulnerable sectors.

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Obesogenic cities

One of the main risk factors for the continuation of obesity is the movement of people from rural to urban environments. There is an increasing concentration and agglomeration of people in cities.

The environment of cities favors elements that contribute to being overweight. People have less time to prepare meals at home and spend hours on the streets traveling in vehicles to places of work, education, or leisure.

Advertising is also more aggressive in cities. The abundant signage, the audio messages heard from everywhere and the presence of large posters in kiosks with images of unhealthy foods favor less than optimal nutrition.

Sedentary lifestyles

The other risk factor for obesity is a sedentary lifestyle. Physical exercise is minimal at the population level. This seems paradoxical, as gyms and fitness lifestyles are increasingly promoted.

However, the data are compelling. According to research, a lack of physical activity is capable of producing more deaths than obesity itself.

The urban environment partly explains this sedentary lifestyle. Constant occupations and the apparent lack of time have led to people not finding a way to dedicate 30 minutes or an hour a day to movement.

Similarly, technological advances favor in some aspects the lack of physical exercise. Our connectivity allows many tasks to be performed from the comfort of the armchair or teleworking without leaving home as are excuses to avoid exercise.

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The nutritional transition

Nutritional transition is the concept used to describe how the world population is consuming more and more ultra-processed foods and is no longer using traditional cooking and preparation techniques. Again, this phenomenon seems to be linked to the exodus to the cities.

There are also economic issues at the heart of it. It’s now cheaper to buy a processed product than to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Those marketed as organic have a high cost because the farms are small and don’t have a broad distribution structure.

The ease with which unhealthy and obesogenic foods are available in any supermarket is also a determining factor. Trans fats, hypercaloric and sugary foods are available on the shelves so as not to waste time and eat whatever in the middle of a hectic routine.

Meat in a store
Supermarkets sell many processed foods that are far from fresh and are available at affordable prices.

We can reverse globesity

Although the picture seems bleak and irreversible, we must understand that the measures to reverse globesity are within our reach. Some basic issues depend only on us and our own willpower.

While laws and guarantees are required to improve the accessibility of healthy foods to the population, exercising and improving our dietary patterns should be everyone’s goal. We must remember that globesity brings with it many other disorders that increase in prevalence in tandem, such as:

  • Arterial hypertension
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Acute myocardial infarction
  • Cerebrovascular accidents
  • Fatty liver
  • Sleep apnea

So, if you notice that you are overweight or you calculated your body mass index (BMI) and discovered that you are in the range of obesity, consult a doctor. He or she will be able to guide you to a healthy weight loss plan.

This pandemic will continue to grow unless we do something about it. Awareness of the problem is one of the first steps.

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The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.