The Enormous Economic Costs of the Neglected EpidemicBY PIETRO PAGANINI

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Obesity represents one of the most critical challenges for public health systems, which is why the G7 must urgently include it in its agenda to discuss possible solutions at the next Health Ministers’ meeting in October.

The FAO tells us that, to date, more than one billion people worldwide are living with obesity, including 159 million children and adolescents and 879 million adults. In Europe, 59% of adults and nearly one in three children are overweight or obese. Overweight is numerically more alarming than obesity because it involves many more individuals and is consistently underestimated. We are therefore facing a neglected syndemic, whose trends, if not reversed, will result in more than half of the world’s population being obese or overweight by 2035, with a global economic cost estimated at 4.32 trillion dollars. By 2030, for the first time in human history, life expectancy could shorten instead of lengthen, precisely due to obesity.


The economic impact of obesity is enormous. The healthcare costs associated with treating obesity-related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, have grown exponentially. Additionally, obesity contributes to reduced productivity and increased absenteeism, negatively affecting national economies. This phenomenon is particularly severe in low and middle-income countries, where resources to address the emergency are limited.

Obesity is not just the result of an excessively caloric diet, and it is certainly not the consequence of a few nutrients. “The dose makes the poison”, said Paracelsus. It is even less a mere aesthetic issue. It is the product of a complex mix of factors: diet and lifestyle, quality of sleep, emotional state, socio-economic conditions, genetic and metabolic factors. We are talking about one of the main indirect causes of mortality worldwide, with devastating effects on mental and physical health, as well as on social relationships and economic productivity.

Therefore, measures to combat it must be personalized and based on a multidisciplinary approach that considers the specific needs and circumstances of each individual.


The policies implemented so far, such as front-of-pack nutritional labeling, Nutriscore, star ratings used in Australia, or the grim black labels used in Chile, have not achieved the promised results. On the contrary, these are superficial tools that do not stimulate critical awareness in citizens, nor do they promote a deep understanding of food choices. It is urgent to review these approaches, shifting attention from generalized solutions to more targeted and individualized prevention and treatment interventions.

Fortunately, technological evolution offers new opportunities to address obesity more effectively. The development of the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, quantum physics, and personalized medicine provides us with the indispensable tools to implement tailored solutions. These advances allow us to combat the silent epidemic of obesity with greater precision and effectiveness.

Addressing obesity aligns with the ethical objectives of the G7, as it concerns the individual and social well-being of citizens, has significant economic implications, and also impacts the environment through excessive calorie production. The G7 has a duty to take a decisive stance on this issue, promoting innovative and multidisciplinary policies that can truly make a difference.

Only through a joint commitment and the adoption of advanced and personalized strategies will it be possible to effectively address this syndemic, improving public health and contributing to a healthier and more productive society.


Article published in Italian on Economy>>>

Read the letter we sent to the G7 members, highlighting the urgent need to include obesity in the agenda >>>

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