It's a worldwide first: Today, eating too much is more of a health threat than food shortages. On a global scale, overeating costs more years of healthy life than does undernutrition, according to a massive new study. The Global Burden of Disease 2010 report compares illnesses and causes of death in 1990 with those in 2010, and it's "the most comprehensive assessment of human health in the history of medicine," says the editor of the journal publishing the study.
The report "provides insights into human health that are comparable in scope and depth to the sequencing of the human genome," he adds. Stroke and heart disease, which can result from overeating, together cause a quarter of deaths worldwide. Undernutrition was the top cause of disease burden in 1990; it's now eighth, while excessive BMI has moved from 10th to sixth. In other findings, we're generally living longer, and research into infections and other health threats has cut deaths in children under five by 60%. While infectious disease remains high in sub-Saharan Africa, non-infectious diseases—like those stemming from being overweight—are now more of a threat. And overall, humankind is suffering more years of unhealthiness and disability, New Scientist notes. (Read more food stories.)