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Township of Langa, Cape Town, South Africa

A girl suffering from obesity sits in front of her house in the Langa township, a poor suburb of Cape Town. Obesity in South Africa affects more women than men: 69.3 per cent of South African women have unhealthy levels of body fat and more than four in 10 are clinically obese. (Photograph by Silvia Landi)

Globesity: Documenting an epidemic

Rome-based photographer Silvia Landi has traveled the globe documenting the lives of those struggling with obesity and its various health effects.

Worldwide, there are now more than 700 million obese people, 108 million of whom are children, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The research also found that the prevalence of obesity has doubled in 73 countries since 1980, contributing to 4 million premature deaths.

And, for the first time in human history, according to a 2016 study published by the Lancet medical journal, there are more obese people than underweight people in the world.

Landi, to illustrate the growing “globesity crisis,” has attempted to document the problem in three countries: Italy, South Africa and Mexico. Italy has a high childhood obesity rate (35 percent); South Africa struggles with a high adult female obesity rate (42 percent); and Mexico has one of the highest overall obesity rates in the world — nearly 30 percent, putting it just behind the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Egypt, although at times it has been in the top spot.

Many point to obesity as a problem that the U.S. is exporting, through the growing presence of its processed-food and soda companies into nations where diets have traditionally consisted of healthy whole foods. But a slew of complex issues have contributed to the growing epidemic.

“Speaking to people I photographed, especially in South Africa,” Landi said, “I have understood that they often did not realize they have a problem.”

Read more on this story by Beth Greenfield : Exporting obesity: How the food industry is changing the world’s diet >>>

See the related story by Michael Walsh: Amid obesity epidemic, Coke shifts ‘health’ focus from exercise to calories >>>

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