Obesity: a Deadly Global Epidemic
Some health experts say the world is in the grip of a fat pandemic that threatens to overwhelm every country's health system with diseases such as diabetes and heart disease and shorten the life span of future generations. Obesity is a massive and deadly problem around the world, and exploding numbers of overweight children even could make today's generation the first to die before its parents, warned the organizers of an international health conference.
More than 2,500 experts and health officials gathered in Sydney to open the International Congress on Obesity.
"This insidious, creeping pandemic of obesity is now engulfing the entire world."
"It's as big a threat as global warming and bird flu," said Zimmet, an Australian expert on diabetes.
Obesity is now recognized by the World Health Organization as an insidious killer and the major contributing cause of preventable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease," said Prof. Paul Zimmet, a diabetes expert who is chairman of the meeting.
The world now has more overweight people than those who are undernourished, and obesity is the single largest contributor to chronic disease, the organizers said in a statement.
The conference will hear research and papers from almost 400 experts and discuss issues including how to prevent people from becoming overweight, clinical treatment of the problem and links between how the brain works and obesity.
Among the top issues will be obesity among children, a problem organizers said was a mounting epidemic that could produce a generation with chronic health problems.
The children in this generation may be the first in history to die before their parents, warned Prof. Kate Steinbeck, an expert in children's health at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
The WHO says more than 1 billion adults around the world are overweight and 300 million of them are obese -- making the problem a global epidemic. The number of underweight people is estimated at around 800 million.
"There are now more overweight people in the world than undernourished," said Prof. Ian Caterson, another organizer of the meeting.
Treating diseases related to being overweight cost countries like the U-S, Britain and Australia (b) billions of dollars each year.
"We are not dealing with a scientific or medical problem, we're dealing with an enormous economic problem that is going to overwhelm every medical system in the world," said Professor Philip James, the chairman of a global task force that deal with weight-related problems.
The conference will treat obesity as the keystone of all health priorities because it is the single greatest contributor to chronic disease throughout the world," Caterson said
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