There are 113 million more obese children than there were in 1975

There are 113 million more obese children than there were in 1975

There are 113 million more obese children than there were in 1975

Combined, the number of obese five to 19 year olds jumped tenfold globally, from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016.

The number of kids and teenagers with obesity increased from 11 million to 124 million worldwide between 1975 and 2016, researchers in the United Kingdom and at the World Health Organization (WHO) have found.

The researchers pooled 2,416 studies looking at BMI and obesity to analyse data on 128.9 million participants around the world, including 31.5 million children and teenagers aged five to 19.

Dr Fiona Bull at WHO, said: "These data highlight, remind and reinforce that overweight and obesity is a global health crisis today, and threatens to worsen in coming years unless we start taking drastic action".

Separately, researchers at the World Obesity Federation estimated that worldwide obesity rates went from less than 1 percent in 1975 to about 6 percent for girls and 8 percent for boys.

The research also showed that around the world 75 million girls and 117 million boys were moderately or severely underweight in 2016.

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.

"Very few policies and programmes attempt to make healthy foods such as whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables affordable to poor families", Ezzati said in a statement. "Yet the experiences of east Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean show that the transition from underweight to overweight and obesity can be rapid, and overwhelm the national capacity needed to engender a healthy transition". Obesity comes with the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, while underweight children are more at risk from infectious diseases.

"The trend predicts a generation of children and adolescents growing up obese and at greater risk of diseases, like diabetes", he said.

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

More children and teenagers worldwide are moderately or severely underweight than obese, but that will change by 2022 if the obesity rates continue to grow as fast as they did in the last 40 years, according to the study.

Health experts are trying to educate more parents, as well as schools and governments about the importance of balanced diets, proper food labeling and the long-term impact of childhood obesity. Overall, global obesity prevalence has increased to 5.6% for girls, and to 7.8% for boys, based on the Body Mass Index (BMI).

Bull said "countries should aim particularly to reduce consumption of cheap, ultra-processed, calorie dense, nutrient poor foods".

Meanwhile in Europe, girls in Malta and boys in Greece had the highest obesity rates, comprising 11.3 percent and 16.7 percent of the population respectively.

British girls are the sixth fattest in Europe and boys the 18th largest.

"By contrast, the rise in BMI has accelerated in east and south Asia for both sexes, and southeast Asia for boys".

The study in the journal "Lancet" also says obese children tend to be overweight as adults.

As for adults in Switzerland, 41% are overweight, and 10.3% are obese - making Switzerland average in comparison with other OECD countries.

Related news