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Is the obesity epidemic exaggerated? No

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 31 January 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:245
  1. R W Jeffery, professor1,
  2. N E Sherwood, research investigator2
  1. 1University of Minnesota, School of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, 1300 S Second Street, Minneapolis MN 55454-1015, USA
  2. 2HealthPartners Research Foundation, Minneapolis, MN 55440-1524, USA
  1. Correspondence to: R W Jeffery jefferyrw{at}

    The UK health secretary declared last week that we are in the grip of an obesity epidemic. Patrick Basham and John Luik believe that the problem is less clear cut, but R W Jeffery and N E Sherwood say that obesity is a growing global problem

    An abundance of observational and experimental data show the growing prevalence of obesity, defined as a body mass index ≥30, and the causal role of obesity in adverse health outcomes. These data substantiate our position that the seriousness of the obesity epidemic is not exaggerated. The fact that obesity is developing rapidly in many parts of the globe is incontrovertible. The World Health Organization’s Global Database on Body Mass Index includes the most comprehensive international data available on obesity trends.1 Absolute prevalence of obesity varies among countries (0.7%- 78.5%). However, large rises in prevalence have been observed across the globe over the past few decades. Rates of obesity in adults have roughly tripled in Japan (from 0.84% in 1980 to 2.86% in 2001), Brazil (from 2.4% …

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