Thursday, 19 October, 2017

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

Obesity Global cost of obesity-related illness to hit $1.2 trillion
Melissa Porter | 11 October, 2017, 05:11

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 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.

Despite the trend, more children around the world are severely underweight than overweight, the research showed.

The analysis, led by Imperial College London in collaboration with the World Health Organization, involves data on almost 129 million children ages 5 to 19 in 200 countries.

The authors found that the global prevalence of child and adolescent obesity increased for both girls and boys, from 0.7 percent to 5.6 percent for girls, and from 0.9 percent to 7.8 percent for 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.

In Australia, the average BMI for boys was 18.6 in 1975 and 18.3 for girls, while past year it was 20.4 for boys and the same for girls, which is in the normal range, but the government's own statistics say that one in five Aussie kids are now overweight or obese.

"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. Nearly two-thirds of these children live in South Asia.

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

East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean have seen a shift from underweight to obesity within the space of a few decades.

Rutter and the WHO's Fiona Bull, another co-author, said on a call with reporters that the solution lies in not only targeting individual behavior - including the quantity and quality of meals and physical exercise - but in looking more broadly at agricultural policies as well as the marketing, packaging, pricing and availability of food. The investigators relied on information from more than 2,400 prior studies.

The largest increase in the number of obese children and adolescents has been in East Asia.

Researchers at Imperial College London and the World Health Organisation (WHO) said "childhood and teen obesity rates have levelled off in the United States, north-western Europe and other rich countries, but remain "unacceptably high". But Ezzati says it also has a big impact in childhood.

Canada was ranked 44th for obesity among boys and 67th for girls. "As the clock goes forward, it becomes more and more concentrated in South Asia and in the poorest pockets of Africa", Ezzati said.

British girls have the 73rd-highest obesity rate in the world and boys the 84th, down from 27th and 39th respectively in 1975. In many parts of Africa and India, 30 percent to 50 percent of boys were underweight.