April 2, 2016 3:30 pm

More people are obese than underweight, massive BMI study finds

Obesity rates are on the rise.

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, file)
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There are more obese people on the earth than there are underweight people, and roughly 20 per cent of the population will be obese by 2025 if current trends continue.

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A massive analysis of the Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 19 million people in 200 countries shows that our world’s population is getting heavier.

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People are considered obese when their BMI is more than 30, and underweight when it is lower than 18.5.

Researchers, led by scientists from Imperial College of London, looked at data from 1975 and compared it with 2014. The average BMI for men in 1975 was 21.7, and it increased to 24.2 by 2014; women’s average increased from 22.1 to 24.4.

Over that time frame prevalence of obesity shot up from 3.2 per cent to 10.8 per cent in men and 6.4 to 14.9 in women.

Meanwhile, the number of people who are underweight has decreased from 14 per cent to 9 per cent in men, and 15 per cent to 10 per cent in women.

WATCH: How much does your BMI really tell you? Global’s Morning News finds out

“Although it is reassuring that the number of underweight individuals has decreased over the last four decades, global obesity has reached crisis point,” the study’s senior author said in a statement.

Carrying extra weight brings with it health risks, Heath Canada states.

“Extra body fat is associated with increased risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease and some forms of cancer.”

Some argue the BMI calculation is flawed. A recent study from the University of California in Los Angeles suggests that BMI can unfairly categorize healthy people as overweight or obese.

“There are healthy people who could be penalized based on a faulty health measure while the unhealthy people of normal weight will fly under the radar and won’t get charged more for their health insurance,” UCLA psychology professor Dr. Janet Tomiyama, the study’s lead author, said in a statement.

READ MORE: Are you still using BMI to measure your health? Don’t, docs say

BMI is a blanket calculation, while every individual’s body is unique, critics say.

“Assuming a person’s lifestyle is unhealthy because their BMI is high is as unwise as assuming a person’s healthy just because they’re skinny,” Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, a physician at the University of Ottawa and the Bariatric Medical Institute, told Global News.

“I know plenty of skinny people with awful lifestyles, and plenty of people with obesity whose habits are healthier than mine.”

The BMI study points out that while attention has shifted to combating obesity, it’s still vital that work is done to help areas of the world where underweight populations persist.

The study is published in the journal The Lancet.

With a file from Global News’ Carmen Chai.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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