European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 34, Issue 7, pp 711–713 | Cite as

Prevalence of overweight and obesity in Western countries: discrepancies in published estimates

  • Norman J. TempleEmail author
  • Annalijn Conklin


Two papers were extracted and pooled data from published sources were used to estimate the distribution of BMI values for adults living in many countries around the world. The NCD Risk Factor Collaboration and the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 presented data for 200 and 188 countries, respectively. We extracted estimates from the two datasets for the prevalences of overweight and obesity in 28 Western countries. The two studies used similar methodology for extracting and pooling data, however the papers show serious discrepancies in several countries. Our analysis reveals the need for increased standardization of the identification and analysis of surveys of BMI distribution. This is necessary in order to facilitate comparability of study results and accurate global monitoring of obesity trends. Our findings also indicate that if findings from Western countries contain serious discrepancies, then findings from middle-income and low-income countries will likely have a poor level of accuracy as far fewer surveys of BMI distribution have been carried out.


Obesity BMI Errors in surveys Population surveys 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Science, Athabasca UniversityAthabascaCanada
  2. 2.Collaboration for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Faculty of Pharmaceutical SciencesUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences, Providence Healthcare Research InstituteVancouverCanada

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