Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Trends in underweight and obesity — scale of the problem

A recent study reports that the global prevalence of paediatric obesity increased to >5% between 1975 and 2016. This increase occurred even as the prevalence of paediatric underweight decreased slightly but remained >8%. These average prevalence changes blur the remarkable regional variations in how prevalence has changed. There is a pressing need to address both underweight and obesity worldwide.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout


  1. NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128.9 million children, adolescents, and adults. Lancet (2017).

  2. Black, R. E. et al. Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries. Lancet 382, 427–451 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Yanovski, J. A. Pediatric obesity. An introduction. Appetite 93, 3–12 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. GBD 2015 Obesity Collaborators et al. Health effects of overweight and obesity in 195 countries over 25 years. N. Engl. J. Med. 377, 13–27 (2017).

  5. Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D. & Flegal, K. M. Epidemiologic trends in overweight and obesity. Endocrinol. Metab. Clin. North Am. 32, 741–760 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Hales, C. M. et al. Prevalence of obesity among adults and youth: United States, 2015–2016. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017).

  7. Fryar, C. D., Carroll, M. D. & Ogden, C. L. Prevalence of underweight among children and adolescents aged 2–19 years: United States, 1963–1965 through 2013–2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016).

  8. Fryar, C. D., Carroll, M. D. & Ogden, C. L. Prevalence of underweight among adults aged 20 and over: United States, 1960–1962 through 2013–2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016).

  9. Dietz, W. H. Double-duty solutions for the double burden of malnutrition. Lancet (2017).

  10. Wardle, J. et al. Evidence for a strong genetic influence on childhood adiposity despite the force of the obesogenic environment. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 87, 398–404 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


J.A.Y. is a Commissioned Officer in the United States Public Health Service (PHS). The opinions and assertions expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as reflecting the views of the PHS or the Department of Health and Human Services. J.A.Y. receives research support from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Intramural Research Program ZIA-HD-00641, from Zafgen Inc. for a clinical trial of pharmacotherapy to treat obesity and hyperphagia in patients with the Prader–Willi syndrome and from Rhythm Pharmaceuticals Inc. for support of sequencing of genes upstream of the melanocortin 4 receptor in the leptin signalling pathway and for a clinical trial of pharmacotherapy to treat obesity due to proximal leptin signalling pathway defects.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jack A. Yanovski.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Yanovski, J. Trends in underweight and obesity — scale of the problem. Nat Rev Endocrinol 14, 5–6 (2018).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing