The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that obesity has tripled in the past twenty years and in addition, 10 percent of children and 20 percent of adults will be obese in Europe and Central Asia by the year 2010 unless some kind of action is taken.
Dr. Meera Shekar -- senior nutrition specialist with the World Bank -- said that malnutrition cuts two to three percent off of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the hardest-hit countries -- and the growing rate of obesity could do the same. Dr. Shekar says "We suspect that these estimates will be just as high" for obesity.
Six percent of health costs in the WHO's European region already comes from obesity in adults. For example, obesity cost France $6.41 billion in direct costs alone in 2002, while cost the state of California $22 billion in the year 2000, including indirect costs.
As obesity is also expected to reduce life expectancy, it could have a direct impact on the global economy as well. A recent study in Britain forecasted that men would live five years less by 2050 if current trends were not reversed regarding the global obesity problem.
Dr. Shekar said, "The important thing is that because the problem is increasing we would see an increasing drain on economies, particularly developing economies," while adding that obesity had appeared recently in the Middle East and North Africa -- and was turning out to be a big problem in Latin America.
The prevalence of obesity seems to shift to the poor from the rich in developing countries -- and this has happened in France, where obesity is five times more prevalent among low-income groups than high earners according to WHO Regional Adviser Dr. Franceso Branca.