Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that the number of overweight and obese individuals world-wide increased from 857 million to 2.1 billion.

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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) --A new study released Wednesday states that nearly one-third of the world's population is either overweight or obese.

The study found that the United States has the highest percentage of the world's obese individuals.

Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that the number of overweight and obese individuals world-wide increased from 857 million to 2.1 billion.

IHME tracked data from 188 countries from 1980 to 2013. According to the study rates of overweight and obesity among adult men and women increased 16% during the course of their study. Showing higher rates of overweight and obesity in men living in developed countries, at the same time women in developing countries exhibited higher rates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define overweight as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors; while obesity is having excess body fat.

Analysis also shows that the peak of obesity rates are moving towards younger ages in developed countries.

"Obesity is an issue affecting people of all ages and incomes, everywhere," said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME and co-founder of the Global Burden Disease study. "In the last three decades, not one country has achieved success in reducing obesity rates, and we expect obesity to rise steadily as incomes rise in low and middle income countries in particular, unless urgent steps are taken to address this public health crisis."

According to the study, obesity has also increased among children and adolescence by nearly 50% worldwide. High rates can be found in the Middle East and North African countries, prominently among girls.

In 2013, the highest rates of overweight and obesity were seen in North Africa and the Middle East, where 58% of men and 65% of women age 20 or older were found to be either overweight of obese. Over the past 30 years, the percentage of people who are either overweight or obese has risen significantly over the last 30 years. Rates in this study were adjusted for differences in population ages and size across countries over time.

Research indicates that if left unchecked, the rise in obesity could lead to future declines in life expectancy. Health risks such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and chronic kidney disease increase when a persons body mass index exceeds 23. In 2010, overweight and obesity were linked to 3.4 million deaths, most due to cardiovascular causes.

"We know that there are severe downstream health effects from childhood obesity, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many cancers," said Marie Ng, Assistant Professor of Global Health at IHME and the paper's lead author. "We need to be thinking about how to turn this trend around."

Read the entire study published in The Lancet here.

Written by: Monika Thomas, WUSA9

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