Center Warns Against Obesity, Overweight

Almost 22% of Iranians (28% of women and 15% of men) are obese, while nearly 70% of adults over the age of 20 in Tehran are either obese or overweight
Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are the result of environmental and societal changes.Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are the result of environmental and societal changes.

Obesity and overweight among Iranians often make headlines, with some news outlets calling the country one of the most obese, and others voicing concern over the future of the stout population.

Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. The worldwide prevalence of obesity more than doubled between 1980 and 2014, when more than 1.9 billion adults aged 18 years and older were overweight and over 600 million among them were obese. Overall, about 13% of the world’s adult population (11% men and 15% women) were obese in 2014.

However, Iran is not seen in the list of the world’s most obese countries. In a number of rankings, such as ‘30 Most Obese Countries in the World’ by World Atlas, and “Fattest Countries in the World” by, Iran is nowhere to be seen among the top 30 obese nations.

Neither is Iran listed in the category of the world’s least obese countries. The country ranks 77th in terms of the prevalence of obesity or overweight. In all, 160 countries were surveyed.

Small countries such as Nauru, Tonga, and Samoa top the list with over 90% of their population obese or overweight (over 30% obese). The list also includes some of the most developed countries such as the US in 12th place, Australia 26th and the UK 27th.

According to, 22% of Iranians (28% of women and 15% of men) are obese, while nearly 70% of adults over the age of 20 in Tehran are either obese or overweight.

  Multiple Implications

However, what is more worrisome is that developing nations have already taken steps and laid out plans to curb the problem, while Iran lags behind.

Obesity and overweight have heavy economic impacts on governments. As the condition is a precursor to various disorders such as diabetes, high blood pressure and sugar as well as cardiovascular diseases, governments must get ready to pay for nationwide screening programs and subsidizing medicine to accommodate the large demographic groups grappling with the problem.

“Childhood obesity leads to diabetes and hypertension in later adolescent and adult obesity and sets the stage for cardiovascular disease, cardiac arrest and premature death,” says Dr. Fereydoon Azizi, president of the Research Institute for Endocrine Sciences at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences.

The WHO reports that deaths resulting from obesity and its pertinent complications in Iran top those resulting from the four major cancers: lung, colon, breast, and prostate.

Today, obesity is considered as the main risk factor leading to non-communicable diseases that count as the leading cause of premature death across the world.

  Way Out

“Iran is going through a transitional phase, epidemiologically speaking, where the nature of diseases have changed due to people’s lifestyle choices and advancement in healthcare system,” Health Ministry spokesperson Iraj Harirchi told ILNA recently.

“The transition is from a time in the 1960s when life expectancy was 48.5 years and bacterial and infectious diseases were the leading cause of death, to today with average life expectancy of 75 years where NCDs are claiming the highest number of lives.”

The economic burden of diseases that are manifested over a long-term period are costly, he noted.

An increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and an increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization, are part of the present-day lifestyles.

Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often the result of environmental and societal changes associated with development and lack of supportive policies in sectors such as health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing, and education.

A change in lifestyle is what most experts are recommending, starting with kids. The rate of obesity and overweight is 24% in girls and 19% in boys aged 14-20 years old. In a number of regions, the rate reaches 30%, while it is 20% among children six years old and under.

The Health Ministry’s Nutrition Improvement Office has launched a national model of the Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Program (ECHO) at six universities of medical sciences that includes the guidelines for community-based interventions for prevention and control of obesity and overweight in children and young adolescents.

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