More Than 1 Billion People Around the Globe Are Facing Obesity

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March 26, 2024 · Baton Rouge, LA

Pennington Biomedical’s Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk was among hundreds of researchers who tracked BMI measurements gathered from more than 3,600 population-based studies since 1990

Obesity is now the most common form of malnutrition in most countries, with the rates rising in all categories of men, women, children and adolescents since 1990. Obesity rates in adult men have nearly tripled since 1990, with obesity rates in woman doubling in that time. The rates of obesity in children and adolescents quadrupled in that time frame, as well. As of 2022, nearly 880 million adults and nearly 160 million children were living with obesity.

The prevalence of malnutrition across the globe was shared by the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration, a network of health scientists from around the world who provide and evaluate data on major risk factors for all countries, in collaboration with the World Health Organization. Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, Associate Executive Director of the Population and Public Health Sciences department of Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, was an author contributor to this publication. 

The network participants reviewed body mass index data from more than 3,600 studies from 1990 to 2022, determining the rates of malnutrition, either from obesity or underweight, for all countries, and the degree to which the data has changed through the years. 

“The current rates of obesity appear overwhelming, but the trend has been moving in this direction for more than three decades,” said Dr. Katzmarzyk. “With more than 1 billion people living with obesity, it is important that we do not talk about obesity in a vacuum. We know that obesity can directly lead to comorbidities, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obstructive sleep apnea. By better understanding the root causes of obesity, we can identify ways to prevent, treat or even reverse its adverse effects.”

Out of the 190-plus countries represented in this study, the United States ranked 10th highest in the world for the prevalence of obesity in men, with an increase in percentage of men from 16.9 percent in 1990 to 41.6 percent in 2022. For women, the obesity rate in 1990 was 21.2 percent, climbing to 43.8 percent in 2022, with ranking 36th highest in the world. For boys, the rate of obesity increased from 11.5 percent in 1990 to 21.7 percent in 2022, ranking the U.S. 26th highest in the world. The rate of obesity for girls in the U.S. ranked 22nd highest in the world, with the rate climbing from 11.6 percent in 1990 to 19.4 percent in 2022. 

The results echo the prevalence of obesity on granular levels, as in 2020, 38 percent of adults in Louisiana are facing obesity, according to County Health Rankings and Roadmaps.

“The results of this study resoundingly affirm the value of Pennington Biomedical’s mission,” said Dr. John Kirwan, Executive Director of Pennington Biomedical. “With the prevalence of obesity growing through the decades, we remain steadfast in our commitment to promote metabolic health, eliminate metabolic disease, discover the triggers of obesity and improve the health of all people. I extend my appreciation and applaud the contribution that Dr. Katzmarzyk made to this important global study.”

Over the same period, the rates of children, adolescents and adults being underweight fell on a global scale, with the rate of underweight of men in some African countries falling steeply. Both obesity and underweight are forms of malnutrition, with obesity rates higher than the rates of underweight for boys and girls in two thirds of the world’s countries. 

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

For more information contact:

Joe Coussan, Media Relations Manager,, 225-763-3049 or Ernie Ballard, Senior Director of Communications & Marketing,, 225-263-2677.

About the Pennington Biomedical Research Center

The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. The Center conducts basic, clinical, and population research, and is a campus of the LSU System. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 530 employees within a network of 44 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and other support personnel. Pennington Biomedical a state-of-the-art research facility on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge. For more information, see

Pennington Biomedical Research Center
6400 Perkins Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70808

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