While around 800 million people worldwide face chronic hunger from food shortages, just how many people in the world are obese?

Obesity has emerged as the most prevalent form of malnutrition globally, with rates climbing steadily across all demographics since 1990.

In adult men, obesity rates have nearly tripled, while in women, they have doubled.

The rates of obesity among children and adolescents have quadrupled in this period.

By 2022, approximately 880 million adults and nearly 160 million children were classed as obese.

That’s over one billion.

The NCD Risk Factor Collaboration, a network of global health scientists working with the World Health Organization (WHO), highlighted these findings.

Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, associate executive director of the Population and Public Health Sciences department at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, was a significant contributor to this publication.

The researchers examined body mass index (BMI) data from over 3,600 studies conducted between 1990 and 2022, assessing malnutrition rates (both obesity and underweight) across all countries and noting changes over time.

One billion seems quite overwhelming, but, as Dr. Katzmarzyk points out, this is the culmination of a three-decades-long trend.

He explains that obesity often comes with other ailments such as hypertension, heart disease and obstructive sleep apnea.

In other words, obesity isn’t just a situation on its own.

The study’s findings reveal significant increases in obesity across various demographics and countries.

Among 190-plus countries, the U.S. ranked 10th highest in obesity prevalence among men, with rates rising from 16.9 percent in 1990 to 41.6 percent in 2022.

People who believe that obesity is mainly a genetic phenomenon need to understand these soaring rates over such a short time.

For women, the obesity rate increased from 21.2 percent to 43.8 percent during the same period, ranking 36th globally.

Among boys, the obesity rate rose from 11.5 percent in 1990 to 21.7 percent in 2022, placing the U.S. 26th highest in the world.

For girls, the rate increased from 11.6 percent to 19.4 percent, ranking 22nd globally.

What about underweight?

Concurrently, global rates of underweight have declined, particularly in men from some African countries.

Despite this decrease, obesity rates surpass underweight rates in boys and girls in two-thirds of the world’s countries, underscoring the complex nature of malnutrition, which includes both obesity and underweight conditions.

The Pennington Biomedical-led study “International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment,” which involved more than 6,000 children from all inhabited continents, is among the many studies that have informed these results.

The comprehensive analysis from this collaborative effort offers a detailed understanding of the evolving landscape of global malnutrition and the pressing need for effective interventions to address obesity’s root causes and consequences.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness, where she was also a group fitness instructor, she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.