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The world's population is increasingly shaping up to become the electric scooter bound population depicted in the Disney Pixar film WALL-E.  (Source: Disney/Pixar)
"When you see me coming your way, better give me plenty space; when I tell you that I'm hungry, won't you feed my face..."

Pleasantly plump, big-boned, rotund, meatier, beefed-up, and portly -- whatever your favorite term, the people of the world have grown much larger over the past thirty years, and not vertically.  In a massive trio of studies [abstract 1, abstract 2, abstract 3] in medicine's top peer-reviewed journal Lancet, the results are astounding -- obesity rates have doubled in less than 30 years.

It is the marvel of modern medicine -- even as the waists of world's citizens swell, cholesterol and heart disease rates are dropping thanks to daily-ingested pills.

Meanwhile, obesity rates have soared from 5 percent of men and 8 percent of women worldwide in 1980 to 10 percent for men and 14 percent for women by the study's end in 2008.  That means that as of two years ago a whopping 343 million men and 458 million women worldwide were of an unhealthy weight.  Another 1.5 billion adults -- roughly a quarter of the world's population, were overweight.

The figure used to measure obesity was the body-mass-index.  While BMI -- a height to weight ratio -- can be misleading in highly muscular individuals, in most cases it is one of the most accurate and quickest ways of assessing the amount of fat a person carries.

The study [press release], conducted by researchers from Harvard University, the Imperial College of London, and other top global universities, was the most comprehensive analysis of BMI, cholesterol, and blood pressure in the worldwide population, to date.

According to the report, Americans are by far the fattest of any developed nation.  Japanese, on the other hand, are the skinniest developed nation. (The most obese non-developed nation is American Samoa.)  But while the west is leading the way in the rise in obesity, obesity rates in Asia are also creeping up.

Majid Ezzati, a professor of public health at Imperial College London and one of the study's authors, comments in a CBS News interview, "Being obese is no longer just a Western problem."

As the fattest continue to get fatter, the experts warn of a coming "global tsunami of cardiovascular disease." Medicine, they say, can only do so much to stave off nature.  Sonia Anand [profile] and Salim Yusuf [profile] of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario authored an accompanying review [abstract] in Lancet, in which they state, "[The forecast for global heart disease is] dismal and comprises a population emergency that will cost tens of millions of preventable deaths [unless action is taken]."

Besides cardiovascular disease, obesity carries a host of other problems including an increased risk of a host of cancers, diabetes, digestive problems, and sexual impotence.  In other words, it's pretty much the mother of all diseases.

Besides the U.S., other regions growing fast in the waist are Latin America, the Middle East, and Western and Southern Africa.  Only regions like central Africa and South Asia bucked the global trend.

Researchers say there are a number of options on the cardiovascular disease front -- including mandating lower salt in manufactured foods and banning transfats.  Likewise new medications may be able to continue to counter the effects of the world's higher fat content.  

But the underlying problem is that people increasingly eating too much, and modern medicine has little answer to that issue.  When confronted with their unhealthy behaviors, many defiantly defend their right to overeat.

And the outlook for the other obesity diseases like cancer and diabetes is more dismal.  States Professor Ezzati [profile], "We don't know how much worse the obesity problem will get. While we can manage blood pressure and cholesterol with medication, diabetes will be a lot harder." 

The three studies' lead authors were Farshad Farzadfar [profile], Mariel M. Finucane [profile], and Goodarz Danaei [profile] -- all of which are researchers at Harvard University in various departments.

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By headbox on 2/4/2011 12:25:28 PM , Rating: 3
That's right- my brother and I, both former Army Rangers and current crossfitters who can do 25 pull-ups and run a 5k in 18 minutes, are considered "overweight" according to BMI. Meanwhile a 140 pound twig, who couldn't bench his own bodyweight once, would be considered healthy. BMI is BS.

By Dr of crap on 2/4/2011 12:32:43 PM , Rating: 1
Are you way removed from the Rangers, because 25 pull ups and 18 minute 5K don't spell the same level of fitness?

Six minute miles are good even great, 25 pull ups are nothing to brag about.

By 91TTZ on 2/4/2011 12:53:19 PM , Rating: 3
I'd like you to find an obese person that can do 25 pull ups. 25 is pretty hard to do.

By Mitch101 on 2/5/2011 11:34:35 AM , Rating: 2
If they are obese they are probably not exercising at all but I hope you mean based upon what BMI considers Obese.

Its funny were taken pullups from the original post as a measure of physical stature. The original posted is giving a measure of Upper and Lower body with a level of stamina but everyone is talking about pullups. Its like when people ask me how much to I bench but never ask how much can I curl and leg press or run a mile.

The majority of people who cant do 25 pull ups are people who never work those muscle groups. Unless your excessively overweight 25 pullups is possible you just need to work that muscle group.

Technique plays a big role in achieving this too I can move someones grip on bench and get them to press their body weight in no time. But I have to ask one question first do you want to look like you bench 500lbs or do you actually want to bench 500lbs? There is a difference body builders and power lifters look entirely. Both are strong but both lift different ways for different reasons.

All Im saying before I write a book.

By Dr of crap on 2/7/2011 8:58:15 AM , Rating: 1
That would be my point. No fat guy can do 25, but a Ranger should be able to. And no 25 is not hard to do.

By kmmatney on 2/7/2011 1:28:26 PM , Rating: 4
I don't think I could ever do 25 pull-ups in my life. But in high school I ran 3 miles in less than 16 minutes. I'm 40 now, but can still do 3 miles in 20 minutes (and still can't do more than maybe 5 pull-ups).

By jimbojimbo on 2/4/2011 1:25:00 PM , Rating: 5
Here we go again with the anonymous internet pissing contest.

By Denigrate on 2/4/2011 2:00:27 PM , Rating: 3
I'd guess you can't do 5. Anyone who can do 25 straight pull ups without cheating is a freakin' stud. I tip the scales at around 245 and can do 3 sets of 10 good ones, and that's considered pretty darn good by most accounts.

Oh, and BMI is a horrid thing to use for obesity. Before I started lifting 15ish years ago, I was a "skinny" 195 lbs, over 6' tall, and was "over weight".

By FITCamaro on 2/4/11, Rating: -1
By Dr of crap on 2/7/2011 8:48:09 AM , Rating: 1
Nope you are wrong!
I'm 6 ft, 175 and can do 40 pull ups no sweat.
I said - running 6 minute miles were very good.
But if the you can't even to 25 pull ups you are not in "shape".
So call me what you want, freakin' stud guy.
But you sound out of shape!

By Dr of crap on 2/7/2011 8:52:00 AM , Rating: 2
Skinny at 195 and 6 feet - that's your measurement for skinny?
Maybe on todays fat standard, but 195 and 6 feet is not skinny.
I'm 6 and under 180 and am NOT skinny.

By FITCamaro on 2/4/11, Rating: 0
By FITCamaro on 2/4/11, Rating: 0
By LRonaldHubbs on 2/4/2011 4:59:26 PM , Rating: 4
25 is doable when you don't weigh much. In high school I was 5'8" and about 125, and I could do 25 at that time. Still it was not easy. Now a more practical number is 10. If that guy thinks 25 is easy, he's either full of crap or a beanpole.

By Dr of crap on 2/7/2011 8:56:25 AM , Rating: 2
Let me state what started this all -
If the guy was a RANGER, than NOT being able to do 25 pull ups is not a good thing.
I gave him credit for being able to run 6 minute miles. Hell I can't do 6 minute miles, and some of that has to do with bad knees.

But Rangers should be able to do 25 pull ups. They're our fighting best. Not the average Joe that thinks 6 ft 195 lbs is skinny.

By geddarkstorm on 2/4/2011 4:09:18 PM , Rating: 2
I think you were thinking push ups. Otherwise you've never done a real pull up if you mean that seriously.

By Leper Messiah on 2/4/2011 5:20:05 PM , Rating: 3
If you think that 25 pull ups in a row (real pull ups, going from a dead hang, all the way up, controlled negative to dead hang, repeat) is nothing to brag about then you must be one of the fittest people on the planet, because that is [b]hard[/b]. I would reckon that most people can't even do 1 real pull up much less 25 in a row.

By SeanMI on 2/4/2011 6:23:36 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, although I will admit it seems pull ups are easier for people who are short and skinny. A friend of mine, around 5'7" and 145 can knock out 20 no problem.

I on the other hand am lucky to get 5. I can run one 6 minute mile and lift pretty regularly so I wouldn't consider myself out of shape, but at 6'6" and 205 I've got a long way to pull up :)

By surt on 2/6/2011 12:40:52 PM , Rating: 2
The 140 pound twig isn't considered healthy, he's considered not fat. Which is accurate if he's a twig.

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