More than one billion people globally are now considered to be living with obesity, according to a new study published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other researchers.

Research shows 879 million adults and 159 million children were obese in 2022, the most recent year included in the analysis, according to The Lancet journal.

Obesity among adults has more than doubled since 1990 and has quadrupled among children and adolescents. The data also show that 43% of adults were overweight in 2022.

“This new study highlights the importance of preventing and managing obesity from early life to adulthood, through diet, physical activity, and adequate care, as needed,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

“Getting back on track to meet the global targets for curbing obesity will take the work of governments and communities, supported by evidence-based policies from WHO and national public health agencies. Importantly, it requires the cooperation of the private sector, which must be accountable for the health impacts of their products”.

The WHO wrote that “obesity is a complex chronic disease” but its causes and the interventions needed to contain it are “well understood”.

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A November study from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) found that global agrifood systems produce “hidden costs” of at least $10trn a year.

More than 70% of the costs relate to unhealthy diets and the consequential development of obesity and chronic diseases, which the FAO said has caused “labour productivity losses”, especially in high and high- and upper-middle-income nations.

Earlier this week, Scotland published proposals to ban the promotion of products high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS).

The findings are based on data from more than 220 million people in more than 190 countries.

“There are significant challenges in implementing policies aimed at ensuring affordable access to healthy diets for all and creating environments that promote physical activity and overall healthy lifestyles for everyone,” said Dr Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s nutrition and food safety department and one of the co-authors of the study. “Countries should also ensure that health systems integrate the prevention and management of obesity into the basic package of services.”

Yesterday (29 February), the British Medical Journal released a study that showed consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) has been linked with the development of 32 adverse human health outcomes.

Researchers found “direct associations” between UPFs and an increased risk of death, death linked to cardiovascular disease and common mental disorders.

“The strongest available evidence” also showed a link between UPFs and a greater risk of becoming overweight and obese, along with type 2 diabetes.

However, the WHO concluded that some ultra-processed foods (UPFs) are actually good for people’s health last November.

A report suggested that processed foods such as bread and cereal reduce the risk of multiple long-term conditions – multimorbidity – due to their fibre content.