Health Care

Child and teen obesity soars tenfold worldwide in 40 years - World Health Organization report

Child and teen obesity soars tenfold worldwide in 40 years - World Health Organization report

In some countries, including the Polynesian Islands, more than 30 per cent of children and teenagers were in the obese category. The number of children who are moderately and severely underweight is, of course, still larger, with 75 million girls and 117 million boys in that category - nearly two-thirds of whom live in South Asia.

The scientists in the United Kingdom and at the World Health Organization led an analysis of data from more than 2,400 studies that tracked the height and weight of about 32 million children from 5 to 19 years old.

Obesity grew from 0.7 percent to 5.6 percent among girls and from 0.9 percent to 7.8 percent in boys.

In addition to the 124 million children considered obese, 213 million youths ages 5 to 19 were overweight around the world in 2016, the researchers said.

Overall, one in every five children on the planet is either obese - meaning more than two standard deviations from the median on growth charts - or overweight - meaning more than one standard deviation. In South Asia, approximately 20 percent of girls and 28 percent of boys were either moderately or severely underweight, which makes them more vulnerable to infectious diseases, and in the case of teen girls, more likely to have pregnancy complications.

The research was led by the World Health Organization and Imperial College London.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: "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".

Most highly developed countries have a significant percentage of overweight children, but the same trend is accelerating in middle-income countries, especially in Southeast Asia.

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If current trends continue, though, the number of children and adolescents who are obese would surpass the number of underweight children and adolescents by 2022.

Dr. Nathalie Farpour-Lambert, the president-elect of the European Association for the Study of Obesity, said in a statement that obesity in childhood has a tendency to continue into adulthood, so that most who are obese as children will be obese into adulthood.

In 2016, 192m young people were underweight - still significantly more than the number of young people who were obese, but that looks set to change.

Canada was ranked 44th for obesity among boys and 67th for girls. But Ezzati says it also has a big impact in childhood.

Much of the increase in recent years has taken place in developing countries while obesity rates among young people in Europe and the United States were said to have plateaued. Starting in the late 1970s and continuing through the 1980s, much of sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and parts of Latin America were affected. In 2016, the average body mass index for both boys and girls was the lowest but also low in Niger, Senegal, Myanmar, Cambodia, Bangladesh and India.

"We have not become more weak-willed, lazy or greedy".

There are still more underweight than overweight kids in the world.


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