Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Obesity now a bigger global killer than hunger

Two decades ago, childhood malnutrition was the world's leading cause of early death. Now, the top global killers are diseases related to obesity.

That's one of the many startling findings of a new, far-reaching report on global health.

The good news is that ambitious efforts to improve sanitation and wipe out infectious diseases in the developing world have been spectacularly successful, driving down infant mortality rates and pushing up life expectancy.

But the Global Burden of Disease study also shows that more people, even in many developing countries, are now dying of "rich country" ailments such as cancer and heart disease than "poor country" diseases like malnutrition and tuberculosis.

What's changed?

1) Global life expectancy has risen sharply in the last 40 years. On average, men are living 11 years longer, women 12 years.

2) In 2010, more than 3m deaths were caused by obesity-related ailments. This is more than three times as many deaths as from malnutrition. Deaths from diabetes alone doubled between 1990 and 2010.

3) About 12.5 million people died from the results of physical inactivity and bad diet, meaning too much sugar and salt and too little fresh fruit. 

4) In 1990, childhood malnutrition was the number one risk factor for early death. Now, it's in eighth place.

5) High blood pressure is now the world's leading cause of death, followed by smoking and alcohol abuse.

6) Sub-Saharan Africa was the exception, where infectious disease, childhood illnesses and maternity-related causes of death still account for 70% of early death and disability.

The bottom line

Fewer people are dying from the kinds of diseases that shortened lives, but more illnesses are now of the type that cause long-term impairments, so those later years are more likely to be spent dealing with the effects of chronic disabilities.

Christopher Murray, director of the group that coordinated the study, says the findings will force a lot of rethinking, both for individuals and for public health professionals.

"We're finding that very few people are walking around with perfect health, and as people age, they accumulate health conditions," he said. "This means we should recalibrate what life will be like for us in our 70s and 80s. It also has profound implications for health systems as they set priorities."

Read the study: The Global Burden of Disease study, the assessment led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, was published in the UK-based journal the Lancet ... ► Read the full story in Avazz

Source: Avazz 
Author: Avazz Team│sources: Guardian, Reuters, New York Times, Al Jazeera, Lancet
Photo: It's not obesity that's killing us – it's the lack of exerciseThe Guardian

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