Overeating Bigger Health Burden Than Malnourishment


Being overweight is more of a health problem than lack of nutrition.  Credit: mbradbury/Flickr

A new study has indicated that the number of years of healthy living lost as a result of people eating too much outweighs the number lost by people eating too little.

The scientists will publish a comprehensive assessment in the journal The Lancet. The Global Burden of Disease report involved almost 500 scientists in 50 countries and also concluded that doctors have finally got a handle on some common infectious diseases, helping to save millions of lives. But collectively people are spending more of their lives living in poor health and with disabilities.

The report assessed the prevalence of diseases and causes of death across the world in 2010, and compared these with collected data in 1990 in order to identify any trends. Being overweight is more of a health problem than lack of nutrition. In 1990, malnutrition was the leading cause of disease burden and a high BMI was ranked 10th. Now, malnutrition has dropped to 8th place, while BMI has risen to 6th.

A greater amount of disease burden has occurred because people are fat and have too much to eat, as opposed to having little to eat, states Alan Lopez, from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Overweight people have high blood pressure, which can cause stroke and heart disease. These two conditions are responsible for a quarter of all deaths, and this isn’t limited to the west. The Middle East is one region that has seen significant increases in BMI.

Even though more people are overweight, they are living longer. Rural health programs have also contributed to big improvements. The progress in eliminating the causes of early childhood death, like infections, has been significant. The rate of death in under five old children has dropped by 60% since 1990.

Global deaths from infectious diseases have also dropped and we are more likely to die from non-infectious diseases, especially those caused by being overweight. The study also found a large burden of disease related to disabilities like musculoskeletal disorders, mental disorders, and substance abuse.

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