WHO ranks obesity as the leading cause of disability worldwide

Hunger has long been considered the primary health crisis facing the global population. However, a recent study sponsored by the World Health Organization has revealed that another condition has overtaken hunger has become even more sever and widespread than hunger: obesity.

The obesity epidemic in the United States has been referenced by medical professionals and media outlets for a few years now, and understandably so. The CDC estimates that a third of adults across the country are obese, and that these rates have risen across the board, regardless of gender, race, income or education level.

But, as processed foods and other products associated with the Western diet gain popularity worldwide, waistlines have expanded across the globe. CNN reports that hundreds of researchers from 50 countries have compiled a Global Burden of Disease report, which assesses international health issues and mortality rates to identify the primary medical crises facing the global community.

According to that research, the number of obese individuals in the world has increased by 82 percent in the last 20 years, spurring an increase in potential fatal conditions like strokes, heart disease and diabetes, as well as back pain and other partially disabling issues.

University of Washington professor Ali Mokdad, one of the study authors, pointed out that, though life spans have increased substantially, the medical problems linked to obesity can significantly restrict a person's quality of life as they age.

"We've figured out how to keep the person who suffered a stroke alive, but then they [may be] living disabled for years afterward," Mokdad says. "That's not the quality of life that person expected."

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