By Alan Hoffman, Executive Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs
March 7, 2015
Understanding the economic impact of obesity.
Recent reports indicate that almost 30% of the global population is either obese or overweight. And the World Health Organization projects that by 2015, approximately 2.3 billion adults will be overweight, and more than 700 million will be obese. Since 1985 the number of people with diabetes has risen from 30 million to 383 million; an increase of 1,173%. Unfortunately, this is a trend that shows no signs of slowing.
The statistics become even more alarming when one considers the future impact of urbanization. Due in part to higher incomes and less physical activity, the obesity rate is three to four times higher in cities than in rural areas of countries like India and China.
One study in China found that urbanization reduces energy expenditure by 500 to 600 calories per day, the equivalent of eating more than 300 McDonald’s Big Mac meals in a year.
Additionally, the economic toll of obesity on society is significant, totaling $2 trillion or 2.8 percent of global GDP – equivalent to the GDP of Italy or Russia. In Mexico, obesity is the largest human-generated social cost to society, beating out smoking, violence, alcoholism, and traffic accidents. In the UK, obesity is the second largest cost after smoking, costing the economy more than $70 billion a year. In the United States, a study by the George Washington University/American Society of Actuaries estimates the overall cost of obesity at $605 billion for 2014 alone, and 20.6% of national health expenditures.
The numbers are staggering and are causing governments and societies to completely rethink national policies on nutrition.
Obesity hits the majority
There are many reasons why populations have become so overweight so fast. Sedentary lifestyles and less exercise; higher wages and busier lives resulting in more disposable income and greater reliance on restaurants; and of course, increased calorie intake and larger portion sizes. Using the U.S. as an example, in 2010, Americans consumed 20 percent more calories than they did in 1970. Product sizes and calorie totals for a variety of foods have increased 2-3 times on average over the last 19 years. And, less than 3 in 10 high school students get 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day.
Obesity is a worldwide crisis, and as a society we simply cannot afford to continue down this road.
What can we do about the obesity epidemic?
The obvious answer is that we need to prioritize and increase access to good nutrition and physical exercise, but this is easier said than done.
Yet, Herbalife is doing just that. The company was founded in 1980 to promote good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, and this is what we continue to do around the globe. In fact, millions of people use Herbalife products on a daily basis to help them lose weight and lead more active lives.
Join the fight
Action starts with knowledge so we invite you to learn more about how you can help. Here are three starting points:
- Find out more about Herbalife and how we provide community support.
- Understand the impact of the obesity epidemic.
- Prioritize healthy food choices and varied exercise in your life.