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The International Obesity Task Force (IOTF - we don’t make this stuff up, folks…) has released a new estimate saying that there are 1.7 billion obese or overweight people worldwide, a number that is 50 percent higher than previous estimates.

Prof. Philip James, chairman of the London-based group, said that appropriate medical treatment was rarely provided to manage obesity, yet it was clearly established that even a modest weight reduction and improved weight control could bring benefits both in improved health of the individual and long term cost savings if the prevalence of serious co-morbidities such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer were reduced or prevented.

James, who previously chaired the United Nations Commission on the Nutrition Challenges of the 21st Century, said there was growing evidence that the impact on health of the escalating obesity epidemic could overtake that of tobacco. "There is a wide spectrum of risk factors related to obesity, which when viewed as a whole, have a tremendous impact on health. By tackling overweight through improvements in diet, activity levels and treatment, we can have a far reaching effect on what is already a huge health burden from cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes,” he said.

In the USA, according to the task force, the percentage of black women with morbid obesity has doubled in less than a decade to a “rather disturbing” 15 percent. Overall, 6.3 percent of US women - or one in 16 - are morbidly obese.

The IOTF calls for a “more serious approach to the treatment of the huge numbers who are obese, as well as introducing effective measures to prevent the problem getting worse.”
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