Childhood Obesity Up Worldwide Almost 10-Fold Over 4 Decades


The percentage of Indian adults living with obesity is set to jump to around 10 per cent (3.1 per cent male and 6.9 per cent female) by 2025 from 7.5 per cent (2.3 per cent male and 5.2 per cent female) in 2014, the new analysis, ahead of World Obesity Day on Wednesday, revealed.

Once underweight children are given access to more calories through food programs and they become overweight.

Obesity rates have stabilised in high-income countries in recent years, though levels remain unacceptably high, Ezzati added.

The study was published online Tuesday in the journal Lancet.

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.

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In total, 124 million children and adolescents around the world had a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, categorising them as obese.

Although child obesity rates appear to be stabilising in many high-income European countries, including the United Kingdom, they are accelerating at an alarming rate in many other parts of the world, lead researcher Prof Majid Ezzati from Imperial College London says.

This means that almost 8% of boys and almost 6% of girls worldwide were obese in 2016, against less than 1% for both sexes in 1975.

Current rates of childhood obesity are highest among many Polynesian islands, the USA, and many countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The most dramatic changes have occurred in middle income countries in regions such as East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and Latin America.

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Girls showed a similar trend, with their obesity figure rising from five million to 50 million over the same period.

But despite the burgeoning obese population, being underweight remains a huge concern in many areas. 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.

Nearly two-thirds of underweight children lived in southern Asia.

"Over 40 years we have gone from about 11 million to a more than tenfold increase to over 120 million obese children and adolescents throughout the world", lead author Majid Ezzati of Imperial's School of Public Health, told a news conference.

This may be a result of increased consumption of highly processed and energy-dense foods, the report's authors said.

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The findings highlight the "disconnect" between the global dialogue on overweight and obesity and initiatives focusing on under-nutrition, Ezzati said. "Even though we may see some signs of improvement, we can not be complacent, and we need to ramp up our actions much more significantly to act across the life-course and across all of society", said Harry Rutter, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "The annual medical costs of treating the consequences of obesity such as diabetes and heart disease is truly alarming", said Ian Caterson, President of World Obesity Federation.