Hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 deaths could have been avoided if the obesity epidemic had been tackled, the World Obesity Federation has said.
Obesity has been linked to a higher risk of severe Covid-19 and death from the disease.
A World Obesity Federation report claims that about nine in 10 Covid-19 deaths have occurred in countries with high obesity rates.
The report, which has analysed obesity rates in countries around the world as well as Covid-19 deaths, also says that the death rate is 10 times higher in countries where 50% or more of the population is overweight.
The authors said that 2.2 million of the 2.5 million global deaths were in countries with high levels of obesity.
They added that countries with low levels of obesity do not have high death rates, but other factors could also be at play.
The World Health Organisation said the report should act as a "wake-up call" for governments to tackle their obesity problems.
This @WorldObesity Day, join @DrTedros for an event focusing on obesity and COVID, as well as the food systems summit – a convergence of complex systems. https://t.co/RGykQqUNv2 A special thank-you to @johanna_ralston for all you do to support efforts against obesity. pic.twitter.com/0NBhZh3TH3— Sandro Galea (@sandrogalea) March 3, 2021
Author of the report Dr Tim Lobstein, senior policy adviser to the World Obesity Federation and visiting professor at the University of Sydney, said: "We now know that an overweight population is the next pandemic waiting to happen.
"They have prioritised public health across a range of measures, including population weight, and it has paid off in the pandemic.
"Governments have been negligent and ignored the economic value of a healthy population at their peril.
"For the last decade they have failed to tackle obesity, despite setting themselves targets at United Nations meetings.
Johanna Ralston, chief executive of the World Obesity Federation, said: "The failure to address the root causes of obesity over many decades is clearly responsible for hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths."
Commenting on the report, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, said: "This report must act as a wake-up call to governments globally.
"The correlation between obesity and mortality rates from Covid-19 is clear and compelling.
"Investment in public health and coordinated, international action to tackle the root causes of obesity is one of the best ways for countries to build resilience in health systems post-pandemic.
"We urge all countries to seize this moment."