Obesity and diabetes in the world

Obesity and metabolic syndrome are epidemic in developed countries worldwide, with disastrous health consequences.

Worldwide prevalence of obesity

The worldwide prevalence of obesity nearly tripled between 1975 and 2020. In fact, in 2020, more than 2 billion adults (39% of the adult global population) were overweight (BMI > 25). Of these, over 600 million were obese (BMI > 30). In Europe, more than half the population is overweight (BMI > 25) and up to 30% is obese (BMI > 30).

And the problem is rapidly getting worse. If the prevalence of obesity continues on its current trajectory, almost half of the world’s adult population will be overweight or obese by 2030. Furthermore, estimates in the USA showed that over 200 million school-aged children are overweight. This makes it the first generation predicted to have a shorter lifespan than their parents (https://www.worldobesity.org).


Obesity is considered one of the top three social burdens generated by human beings

The global economic impact of obesity amounts to roughly USD 2 trillion annually, or 2.8% of the global gross domestic product (GDP). This is nearly equivalent to the global impact of smoking or armed violence, war, and terrorism (McKinsey Global Institute, 2014). Obesity costs national economies billions of euros per year, including direct costs (health care) and indirect costs (loss in productivity and sick leaves). In fact, the toll of obesity on health-care systems alone is between 2% and 7% of all health-care expenditures in developed countries. This does not include the large cost of treating associated diseases, which increases the toll on health-care costs up to 20% by some estimates (McKinsey Global Institute). For example, the direct annual cost of diabetes is estimated at more than USD 827 billion globally.

Diabetes & prediabetes

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called diabetes the “21st century epidemic”.

According to the 2019 figures published by the International Diabetes Federation, 463 million adults around the world between the ages of 18 and 79 suffer from  type 2 diabetes (T2D). By 2045, this figure is set to reach 700 million people. In Europe, 60 million people are living with type 2 diabetes. This figure will rise to 68 million in 2045. But these figures do not fully reflect the significance of this condition, as around 40% of people in Europe are unaware that they have type 2 diabetes.

Identifying groups that are at risk and that have intermediate hyperglycaemia, at the prediabetes stage, would help to limit this development.

The estimated number of adults aged 20–79 years with impaired glucose tolerance (prediabetes) is 374 million (7.5% of the world population in this age group). This number is predicted to reach 454 million (8.0%) by 2030 and 548 million (8.6%) by 2045.

The figures for prediabetes are just as alarming, even though it is still difficult to gather data.

Global prevalence estimates of Impair Glucose Tolerance by International Diabetes Federation (IDF) region. IDF Diabetes Atlas 


Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.

In 2020, more than 2 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these, over 650 million were obese.

39% of adults aged over 18 years were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese.

Approximately 463 million adults (20-79 years) were living with diabetes in 2020. By 2045, this number will rise to 700 million.

The proportion of people with type 2 diabetes is increasing in most countries.

1 in 2 (232 million) people with diabetes are likely undiagnosed.

Diabetes caused at least USD 760 billion dollars in health expenditure in 2019.

374 million people are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Around 5–10% of people with prediabetes become diabetic annually.

Source IDF, Diabetes Atlas and World Health Organizsation, 2020