Recent reports indicate that almost 30% of the global population is either obese or overweight. And the World Health Organization confirms that the worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, with most recent stats finding that in 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese. Unfortunately, this is a trend that shows no signs of slowing.

The statistics become even more alarming when one considers the future impact of urbanization. Due in part to higher incomes and less physical activity, the obesity rate is three to four times higher in cities than in rural areas of countries like India and China.

One study in China found that urbanization reduces energy expenditure by 500 to 600 calories per day, the equivalent of eating more than 300 McDonald’s Big Mac meals in a year.

Additionally, the economic toll of obesity on society is significant, totaling $2 trillion or 2.8 percent of global GDP – equivalent to the GDP of Italy or Russia.  In Mexico, obesity is the largest human-generated social cost to society, beating out smoking, violence, alcoholism, and traffic accidents.  In the UK, obesity is the second largest cost after smoking, costing the economy more than $70 billion a year. In the United States, a study by the George Washington University/American Society of Actuaries estimates the overall cost of obesity at $605 billion for 2014 alone, and 20.6% of national health expenditures.

The numbers are staggering and are causing governments and societies to completely rethink national policies on nutrition.

Obesity hits the majority

There are many reasons why populations have become so overweight so fast. Sedentary lifestyles and less exercise; higher wages and busier lives resulting in more disposable income and greater reliance on restaurants; and of course, increased calorie intake and larger portion sizes. Using the U.S. as an example, in 2010, Americans consumed 20 percent more calories than they did in 1970.  Product sizes and calorie totals for a variety of foods have increased 2-3 times on average over the last 19 years.  And, less than 3 in 10 high school students get 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day.

Obesity is a worldwide crisis, and as a society we simply cannot afford to continue down this road.

What can we do about the obesity epidemic?

The obvious answer is that we need to prioritize and increase access to good nutrition and physical exercise, but this is easier said than done.

Yet, Herbalife Nutrition is doing just that.  The company was founded in 1980 to promote good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, and this is what we continue to do around the globe.  In fact, millions of people use Herbalife Nutrition products on a daily basis to help them lose weight and lead healthier, happier lives. With our network of distributors around the world, we continue our commitment to effecting real change in communities that need it most.

John O. Agwunobi

John AgwunobiChairman and Chief Executive Officer

John Agwunobi is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Herbalife Nutrition, a premier global nutrition company that serves customers in 95 countries. Mr. Agwunobi is a passionate proponent of Herbalife Nutrition’s mission to improve the nutrition habits of people worldwide, strengthening our communities and providing independent distributors a business opportunity to earn supplemental income.