Up to 40,000 deaths could be averted in UK alone if obesity was eliminated, or 9,400 if rising obesity was halted.
Thousands of early deaths from cancer, heart disease, lung disease and diabetes could be avoided if obesity was stabilised or brought to an end by 2030, helping to attain the global sustainable development goals, research shows.
In the UK alone, 40,000 premature deaths would be avoided if there were no more obesity within the next decade. In a more plausible scenario, where the rise in obesity is halted but it continues at the current level, there would be 9,400 fewer deaths, says a study presented at the European Congress of Obesity in Glasgow.
The research is from Novo Nordisk, a company that makes insulin for diabetes. Rates of type 2 diabetes have soared on the back of the obesity epidemic. Presenting the data in Glasgow, the scientists said addressing the growing burden of obesity was critical to cutting premature deaths from four non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes – in line with the target in the UN’s sustainable development goals to reduce deaths from those causes by a third by 2030.
They looked at what would happen to obesity rates in five countries, the UK, Brazil, Denmark, Mexico and Canada, in the event of three scenarios.
In the first, obesity rates continue to rise at the same rate as they have been doing. In the second, they are stabilised, with BMI rates remaining at the current level. In the third, obesity no longer exists, with nobody on a BMI higher than 25, which is the upper end of the normal band.
In a more possible scenario, with obesity rates stable, deaths would fall by 5% in Brazil, Denmark, and Mexico, 6% in Canada and 7% in United Kingdom.
“While eliminating excess weight is a highly hypothetical scenario, it shows the great impact obesity has on premature NCD deaths and what can be gained even by keeping obesity at today’s rates until 2030,” said the authors of the research.