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Children weighing in half a stone heavier
It brought together data from 2,416 studies, involving 128.9 million participants worldwide, which included 31.5 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 years, to estimate trends in the body mass index (BMI) in 200 countries.Excessive weight gain in childhood and adolescence is associated with a higher risk and early onset of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, worse psychosocial and educational outcomes, and lifelong harms since weight loss is hard to achieve.
Combined, the number of obese five to 19 year olds jumped tenfold globally, from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016.
According to the most comprehensive study on childhood and adolescent obesity to date, published on World Obesity Day by the WHO and Imperial College in London, obesity rates in children and teenagers rose from 1 percent in 1975 to almost 6 percent in girls and 8 percent in boys worldwide. In 1975, less than 1% of young people aged five to 19 were obese, equivalent to around five million girls and six million boys.
According to the study's lead author, Prof Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London, obesity rates are continuing to soar in low- and middle-income countries, and while they have recently plateaued in higher income countries, they still remain "unacceptably high" there. Most importantly, very few policies and programmes attempt to make healthy foods such as whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables affordable to poor families. In a new study published online Tuesday, British researchers and the World Health Organization say those levels have plateaued lately in high-income countries, "albeit at high levels", while the rise in obesity rates has only accelerated in regions such as East and Southeast Asia.
However, if current trends continue, there will be more obese children and teenagers than underweight ones by 2022.
"While there have been some initiatives led by governments, communities or schools to increase awareness about childhood and adolescent obesity, most high income countries have been reluctant to use taxes and industry regulations to change eating and drinking behaviours to tackle child obesity".
It also recommends at least 60 minutes of exercise per day and less screen time and other sedentary activities. Thus, most of the countries within the Pacific Islands that includes the Cook Islands and Nauru had the highest rates worldwide.
- In Europe, Malta and Greece have the highest number of obese children, Moldova the lowest.
Girls in the United Kingdom had the 73rd highest obesity rate in the world (6th in Europe); boys had the 84th highest obesity in the world (18th in Europe).
The United States tied with other nations such as Kuwait and Qatar with an obesity rate of 20 percent for that same age group.
The largest rise in BMI of children and adolescents during the four decades was in Polynesia and Micronesia for both boys and girls, and in central Latin America for girls.
India had the highest prevalence of moderate and severe underweight throughout these four decades (24.4% of girls and 39.3% of boys were moderately or severely underweight in 1975, and 22.7% and 30.7% in 2016).
The study emphasised that the high number of moderately or severely underweight children and teenagers in the world still represents a major public health challenge, particularly in the poorest regions of the world.
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