Global obesity crisis keeps getting heavier

Many more people worldwide are now obese than underweight, a landmark study has found, prompting Cancer Council to call for urgent action to curb the crisis.

The Lancet study revealed global obesity has increased by 167 per cent since 1975, compared to a 35 per cent drop in the number of underweight people.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said Australia was among the developed countries worst affected.

“The average body mass index in Australia is now in the overweight range of 25-29.9 for both women (26.8) and men (27.5), well above the healthy BMI range of 18.5 to 24.9,” Ms Clift said.

“This is in large part due to excess intake of kilojoules, with evidence suggesting the consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks has increased by 30 per cent over the past 10 years in Australia.

“On current trends, 37 per cent of Australian women and 37.8 per cent of men will be obese by 2025.”

Almost a fifth of the world’s obese adults and more than a quarter of the world’s severely obese people live in the six high-income countries of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain and the US.

Currently, nearly 13 per cent of the global population are obese (641 million people in 2014), compared to around nine per cent who are underweight.

“These stats are a wake-up call, highlighting the rapid acceleration of obesity in Australia and globally,” Ms Clift said.

“Of significant concern, overweight and obesity is a key risk factor for cancer and other chronic diseases.

“These figures again show the obesity crisis ballooning out of control – we need to do more to ensure all Australians live their healthiest and happiest lives possible.

“Along with all of us taking personal responsibility to ensure a healthy diet, community organisations and Governments have a role to play in reversing these trends.”

Last month, Cancer Council Queensland urged Federal and State Governments to examine a range of opportunities to arrest Australia’s burgeoning obesity crisis.

Strategies recommended by Cancer Council include following the UK’s lead to tax soft drinks, as well as banning soft drink vending machines and the marketing of soft drinks to children.

“We welcome State Government action to restrict the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages in all schools (primary and secondary) and other places frequented by children,” Ms Clift said.

“We further recommend active consideration of measures to reduce the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages in workplaces, government institutions, health care settings and other public places.

“The World Health Organisation recommends limiting sugar consumption from both food and drinks to no more than six teaspoons a day for optimum health.

“Unfortunately not enough Queenslanders are offsetting extra kilojoules from unhealthy food and drink choices with adequate exercise, resulting in overweight and obesity.

“Regular exercise and a healthy low-sugar diet is key to maintaining health and happiness – we need to do all we can to ensure this is as easy as possible for all Australians.”

More information about Cancer Council Queensland, and living a healthy life, is available via 13 11 20 or


For more information or interviews, please contact:
Katie Clift,
Executive Manager,
Media and Spokesperson,
Cancer Council Queensland
Phone: (07) 3634 5372
Mobile: 0409 001 171