LIH contributed to large-scale studies on worldwide obesity and diabetes estimations

2016 - 05 - 18

LIH contributed to large-scale studies on worldwide obesity and diabetes estimations

LIH’s Department of Population Health contributed to two major worldwide public health studies that led to high-impact publications in “The Lancet” in April 2016, one of the best known and high-ranked medical journals. The two studies estimated the global trends in obesity and diabetes respectively, and revealed that both morbidities continue to increase in almost every country: an alarming result.

The studies, supported by the Wellcome Trust and Grand Challenges Canada, were conducted in the framework of the Non-Communicable Diseases Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC) coordinated by the WHO Collaborating Centre on NCD Surveillance and Epidemiology at Imperial College London. The main investigators pooled and analysed reliable and comparable data from 200 countries and territories generated in the past 35 to 40 years. Dr Ala’a Alkerwi from the Department of Population Health was one of the more than 750 collaborators of NCD-RisC. ‘I am delighted that our data from the ORISCAV-LUX study conducted between 2007 and 2008 with more than 1400 participants to assess cardiovascular health in Luxembourg could serve not only on a national level but also for these two important global studies’, tells Dr Alkerwi.

The study on obesity that was based on Body Mass Index (BMI) data from almost 1700 population-based measurement studies including a total of 19.2 million adult participants revealed that the global age-standardised mean BMI increased significantly between 1975 and 2014. Within this period of time it rose from 21.7 kg/m2 to 24.2 kg/m2 in men, and from 22.1 kg/m2 to 24.4 kg/m2 in women. China, USA, India, Mexico, Brazil and Russia were identified as the countries with the highest proposition of obese (BMI 30-35 kg/m2) and severely obese (BMI ≥ 35 kg/m2) people. Whereas obesity globally increased, underweight was found to be decreased, so that there are now more obese than underweight people on the planet.

The diabetes study, which did not differentiate between type 1 and type 2, used data on fasting plasma glucose, history of diabetes or diabetes drug use from 751 studies counting around 4.4 million adults. It showed that global age-standardised diabetes prevalence increased or at best remained unchanged in every country. Between 1980 and 2014, the overall prevalence amplified from 4.3% to 9.0% in men, and from 5.0% to 7.9% in women. Strikingly, the number of adults with diabetes increased by four fold worldwide over this period of time. The burden rose faster in low-income and middle-income countries, especially in East and South Asia, than in high-income countries.

For both reports, an unprecedented amount of population-based data was collected to provide the lengthiest and most complete estimates of trends in obesity and diabetes prevalence. The authors utter that if those trends continue, the world will not be able to meet the global targets set at the 2011 UN high level meeting on non-communicable diseases. At this conference, it was defined that the rise of obesity and diabetes should be stopped by 2025, which, given the findings, seems virtually impossible.

Links to publications:

Trends in adult body-mass index in 200 countries from 1975 to 2014: a pooled analysis of 1698 population-based measurement studies with 19.2 million participants

Worldwide trends in diabetes since 1980: a pooled analysis of 751 population-based studies with 4.4 million participants

Dynamic world maps on obesity and diabetes can be viewed on the NCD-RisC website: