By 2030, Brazil is expected to have almost 30% of its adult population with obesity. The projection was made by the World Obesity Federation, an international organization focused on the reduction, prevention and treatment of obesity.
Currently, data from Vigitel (Surveillance of Risk and Protection Factors for Chronic Diseases by Telephone Survey) from 2021, a survey carried out by the Ministry of Health, indicate that 22% of the adult Brazilian population is obese.
The condition is calculated using the BMI (body mass index), which consists of dividing weight by height squared.
When the result is between 25 and 30, it is considered that there is overweight — a condition that affects 57% of the adult population in the country, according to Vigitel.
If the BMI is greater than 30, the case is categorized as obesity.
Figures from the World Obesity Federation also pointed out that the condition could be a reality for more than 1 billion people worldwide by 2030. For comparison, in 2010 the number was approximately half.
“Some relatively well-known factors for obesity are impacting countries that previously did not have high rates, such as wide access to very industrialized foods and refined foods”, says Carlos Schiavon, bariatric surgeon and coordinator of the NGO Obesidade Brasil.
The federation used data already consolidated by the WHO (World Health Organization) and the World Bank, in addition to making estimates through the obesity history of the countries.
In Brazil, if the projection for 2030 is confirmed, the country will become the fourth nation with the highest absolute number of overweight people in the world, behind only the United States, China and India.
The possible 30% prevalence of the condition in the entire Brazilian adult population was categorized as high by the federation. Other regions, however, reach much higher percentages, such as American Samoa, which, in eight years, could have almost 70% of its population with obesity.
“The index in Brazil is very high. Comparatively, it is a little better, but it remains very high”, says Schiavon.
The estimates were also able to identify the difference in terms of gender. In total, according to the projection, the largest share of people with obesity in the country would be women, something already recognized by the medical literature.
“If we look at the number of bariatric surgeries, there are three women operated on for every man. So there really is a higher incidence and prevalence in women compared to men,” says Ricardo Cohen, coordinator of the Center for Obesity and Diabetes at Hospital Alemão Oswaldo Cruz.
According to him, the picture may be related to genetic aspects. This is still being investigated and could be extremely important for the prevention and treatment of the condition, since, according to the doctor, “we know that the great foundation of obesity is genetic”.
The problems of having a greater number of obese people impact different facets of society, such as the development of diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
This scenario directly reflects on the economic situation of the countries, both in terms of spending on disease treatment and in the loss of productive capacity.
In this case, the projection made by the organization also addressed this point. To understand these effects, the researchers looked at the direct and indirect costs of being overweight.
Those direct calls refer to expenses incurred in the treatment of obesity and diseases resulting from it, such as diabetes, but also those related to the process of seeking health services, such as when traveling for medical care takes place.
Indirect costs refer to the loss of productive capacity of obese people and premature deaths related to being overweight.
With these points defined, it was measured that Brazil would more than quadruple its costs involving overweight and obesity. The total cost is estimated to have reached US$39 billion in 2019. It is projected to rise to US$181 billion by 2060.
In addition to adults, the projection observed obesity in children and adolescents, which should increase by almost 100 million between 2020 and 2030 across the planet.
For Brazil, the study found that the increase in obese children and adolescents between 2010 and 2030 should be 3.8% each year. This situation, according to the federation, is categorized as very high and should result in more than 7 million obese young people in eight years.
“One problem is that these children and adolescents with obesity have a great chance of also being obese adults. This is very worrying because the future would already be bought, that is, we would already have bad numbers”, says Schiavon.
treatment and prevention
Obesity, like other diseases, has different ways of treating and preventing it, but this still generates some confusion.
Cohen explains that one of the main interfaces for obesity prevention is to identify the genetic factors that are associated with it, something still being investigated by current medicine. Observing these aspects, it would be possible to direct a specific lifestyle for someone who tends to be obese in order to prevent this from happening.
“Obesity prevention and treatment are totally different things. Physical activity and dietary guidance are essential for obesity prevention, but not for treatment. Treatment always has this binomial, do more physical activity and eat better, along with a drug or surgical intervention “, he says.
However, the doctor says that there is still a problem in identifying the need to carry out these treatment mechanisms — whether with medication or bariatric surgery — because, sometimes, the severity of the disease is not faced.
“Obesity has to be taken seriously. Covid is an example: mortality, use of respirators and hospitalization in the ICU are directly associated with obesity. It’s not just about education policies. We need effective treatments and enable this access to the population” , concludes.