The epidemic of obesity and overweight has been on the rise for years -The cases have almost tripled since 1975, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) – and the future prospects are not very promising, also in Spain. An investigation of the Hospital del Mar de Barcelona, which has reviewed about fifty epidemiological studies on the prevalence of excess weight in the territory, ensures that eight out of 10 men and 55% of women will be overweight or obese by 2030. " If the trend continues, "the researchers point out, Spain will have more than 27 million people overweight within 11 years. The study, published in the Spanish Journal of Cardiology, It also points out that this unstoppable epidemic will mean an extra cost of 3,000 million euros for the health system.
It is not an aesthetic question, the experts hammer. It is a question of health. Behind the excess weight hides a high risk of suffering from numerous diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, cancer or other cardiovascular diseases. Excess weight is measured by the body mass index (weight in kilograms divided by the square of height). A BMI between 25 and 30 is overweight; if the figure exceeds the threshold of 30, it is obesity.
Researchers from the Hospital del Mar Institute of Medical Research (IMIM) of Barcelona reviewed all the scientific literature in Spain on epidemiology and prevalence of obesity and overweight between 1987 and 2014 to approximate the real figure of excess weight within the territory . "We have reviewed all the studies on overweight in the adult population in Spain, the oldest we found was in 1987. We looked at the temporal trends and crossed it with data from the general population of the National Institute of Statistics to estimate a real approximation to the figures of obesity and overweight ", explains Álvaro Hernáez, IMIM researcher and first signatory of the study. The results revealed an "alarming" future. "Now there are 25 million people with excess weight, three million more than a decade ago, in a conservative scenario, if this trend continues, there would be another three million more, 16% more cases, in 2030," Dr. Albert Goday, endocrinologist at the Hospital del Mar and author of the study.
The data provided by the IMIM research would imply that 80% of men and 55% of women in adulthood would be overweight or obese. That, if the trend does not twist anymore. "The estimates have been made on a scenario of if growth stabilizes, if it continues as it is now without any change," says Goday. Between 1987 and 2014, the annual increase in overweight was 0.28% among men and 0.10% in women; the increase in obesity ranged between 0.50% in men and 0.25% in women. "In men, excess weight is more common until age 50. Then, after 50, obesity increases more among women.They are intrinsic issues related to hormonal metabolism. women have a harder time controlling their weight, "says Goday.
Experts argue that any weight loss, however small, reduces the risk of contracting any of the associated diseases. "It is obvious that obesity is a multi-pathological problem, we will not find the key or the vaccine overnight, but any small intervention will help reduce the risk, although one thinks that it has made a huge effort and only four kilos when you need to lower many more, you know that with those four kilos less is already reducing the risk, "says the endocrinologist of the Hospital del Mar.
An extra cost of 3,000 million
IMIM researchers have also focused on the economic impact of this growth of obesity and overweight cases for the health system. Excess weight always goes associated with the risk of developing other pathologies and, therefore, to require more health care. "People with excess weight have more hospital admissions, more surgeries, more pharmacological treatments, require more spending on professionals …", lists Hernáez. The study estimated that in 2016, the direct cost overrun was 1,950 million euros (524 million more than in 2006). By 2030, they estimated an increase in the additional cost that would reach 3,000 million euros.
The researchers analyzed and estimated the so-called direct costs, which involve all medical care, visits and medication. According to Hernaez, this is half the cost. The other part would be the indirect costs, which include sick leave, aid, disability, etc. "We hypothesize that there is another series of issues that, according to other international studies, represent the other half of the expenses, but that can not be measured: care, casualties, etc.," Hernáez points out.
However, experts say that this growing trend and upward estimates can be broken with more nutrition education and policies to promote healthy habits. "It is a matter of health education, but also of price policy, such as the rate on soft drinks, we must give more space to those foods that we have cornered because curiously they are more expensive, more difficult to cook or less rewarding," says Goday.