The number of obese children and adolescents aged 5-19 has risen tenfold over the past four decades, reports the World Health Organization (WHO)external link. Wednesday, October 11, is World Obesity Day.
On the occasion of World Obesity Day, the WHO and Imperial College London released their latest study on childhood and adolescent obesity worldwide, which was published in the medical journal The Lancet.
It analysed weight and height measurements from nearly 130 million people aged over five years, including 31.5 million aged five to 19 and 97.4 million aged 20 and older, making it the largest ever number of participants involved in an epidemiological study.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 contributors participated in the study which looked at body mass index and how obesity has changed worldwide from 1975 to 2016.
The figures show that the obesity rates in the world's children and adolescents increased from less than one per cent, or some five million girls and six million boys, in 1975 to nearly six per cent in girls (50 million) and nearly eight per cent in boys (74 million) in 2016.
In Switzerland, 7% of boys and 4.6% of girls are obese. In Germany, it’s 11% and 7%, respectively, and in the US, a remarkable 23.3% (boys) and 19.5% (girls). The numbers of seriously overweight children are on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, and have hit a plateau in higher-income countries, says lead author Majid Ezzati of Imperial’s School of Public Health.
“These worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe, with healthy nutritious foods too expensive for poor families and communities. The trend predicts a generation of children and adolescents growing up obese and at greater risk of diseases, like diabetes. We need ways to make healthy, nutritious food more available at home and school, especially in poor families and communities, and regulations and taxes to protect children from unhealthy foods,” Ezzati said in a statement.
Ezzati also advised that regulations and taxes to protect children from unhealthy foods roll out, or a future generation of children and adolescents growing up obese will be at greater risk of diseases, like diabetes.
The study predicts that if the trends continue, by 2020 the global level of child and adolescent obesity will surpass those for moderately and severely underweight youth from the same age group.
“These data highlight, remind and reinforce that overweight and obesity is a global health crisis today, and threatens to worsen in coming years unless we start taking drastic action,” said Dr Fiona Bull, programme coordinator for surveillance and population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases at the WHO.
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