March 19, 2018

Global obesity levels in children rise tenfold, according to study

11 October 2017, 05:22 | Lena Norman

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Despite the increase in child and adolescent obesity, globally more children remain moderately or severely underweight than obese, with a majority in south Asia.

This stabilisation in overweight and obesity rates is also seen among Irish schoolchildren.

Indeed, it is common for children in Switzerland to walk to schoolexternal link, and there are support groups for kids who need to lose weight.

The figures show that worldwide there has been a more than tenfold increase in the number of children and adolescents with obesity in the past four decades.

The figures show that the obesity rates in the world's children and adolescents increased from less than one percent, or some five million girls and six million boys, in 1975 to almost six percent in girls (50 million) and almost eight percent in boys (74 million) in 2016. An estimated 75 million girls and 117 million boys are moderately or severely underweight, meaning greater than one standard deviation from median on the World Health Organization charts. Most of those children live in south Asia.

Children are now more likely to be overweight than not in a number of middle-income countries, including in regions such as East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The prevalence of underweight children decreased from 9.2 percent to 8.4 percent of girls aged 5-19 over the study period, and from 14.8 percent to 12.4 percent in boys.

Among high-income countries, the United States had "the highest obesity rates for girls and boys", 19.5 percent and 23.3 percent, respectively.

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Overall, obesity and overweight rates are plateauing in those places and the United States - where 20 percent of children are obese. BMI is a standard measurement that relates weight and height. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is classified as a healthy weight, 25 to 29.9 considered overweight and 30 and over obese.

"If programs have always targeted getting more calories into children, they're not prepared when obesity hits, he said".

Majid Ezzati, another study author, from Imperial College London, said that current efforts to change eating patterns weren't enough, because most countries had been reluctant to use "fat taxes" or harsher regulation of the food industry to deal with the problem.

What's also startling is that the researchers note that countries can quickly swing from being underweight to obese, due to an increase in food that might be energy-dense, but poor in nutrients.

A further 213 million children and adolescents were overweight in 2016, finds a new study published Tuesday in the Lancet. And while obesity rates have mostly plateaued in higher income countries, they remain "unacceptably" high.

"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".

"Unaffordability of healthy food options to the poor can lead to social inequalities in obesity, and limit how much we can reduce its burden".

"England is at the forefront of addressing childhood obesity - our sugar reduction programme and the Government's sugar levy are world-leading but this is just the beginning of a long journey to tackle the challenge of a generation".

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