Recent research into worldwide BMI rates since 1980 has been published in The Lancet. The studies were carried out by a collaboration of universities and organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), Harvard and Imperial College London.
The study estimates that half a billion people across the globe are now classed as obese, having a BMI of 30 or over. In 1980, 5% of men were obese and 8% of women. In 2008, 14% of women were obese and 10% of men. The highest rates of obesity are seen in the Pacific Islands, such as Samoa and Tonga. The UK has the sixth highest rates of obesity in Europe with men and women both averaging around a BMI of 27.
The research notably shows that whilst BMI rates of the most economically prosperous countries have been growing, BMI rates of less prosperous countries are not so far behind. The rise in BMI has seen increases in cases of diabetes across the globe.
In 1985, The United States and Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) were the only (non-Pacific Island) countries to have an average BMI over 26. In 1994, the UK posted an average BMI of over 26 and by 2004, the vast majority of Europe had an average BMI over this figure. In 2008, where the study concludes, only a selection of European countries, such as France, Belarus, Moldova, Romania and the Ukraine had BMIs under 26.
On the plus side, blood pressure levels across the world have fallen during this time and cholesterol levels in the Western countries have been decreasing over this period as well.

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