Are Childhood Obesity Rates Still Rising?

Nov 02 2017 Read 1652 Times

Obesity is regularly labelled a world health crisis, with nearly a third of the world's population falling into the "overweight" category. Now, experts are warning that child and teenage obesity levels have increased by tenfold over the past 40 years. This means that around 124 million adolescents across the globe weight more than they should.

A global public health crisis

The research was published in prominent health journal the Lancet, and is the largest study of its kind. Analysing obesity trends in more than 200 countries, it confirmed that "puppy fat" is no longer a valid excuse. While the UK isn't one of the worst offenders, around one in 10 people aged five to 19 are still classified as obese.

This is a major public health issue, as obese children are far more likely to grow into obese adults. Not only does this put them at risk of developing serious health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer, but it's also a major burden on the NHS.

Epidemic set to guzzle global health budgets  

Tactically released on World Obesity Day, the study follows a recent warning from the World Obesity Federation. According to the organisation, by 2025 the global cost of treating health conditions caused by obesity will top £920 billion per year.

While the study does indicate that child obesity levels appears to be stabilising in high-income nations like the UK, they are rapidly accelerating in other parts of the world. East Asia, China and India have all seen a boom, with Polynesia and Micronesia also hit by an obesity epidemic.

Cheap, fatty food slammed by health experts

Lead researcher Prof Majid Ezzati of the Imperial College London cites the availability and affordability of cheap, fatty food as one of the main culprits driving the trend. He warns that if the global trend continues, obese will soon become the new norm.

World Health Organisation researcher Dr Fiona Bull is calling for a global crackdown, with a focus on steering kids away from "calorie-dense, nutrient-poor food" and promoting physical activity. Currently, just 20 countries slap a tax on sugary drinks, and to combat the obesity crisis Bull maintains that this needs to be much higher.

Experts call for "deeper actions"

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England agrees, explaining "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."

She adds that while education and information are both important tools, they're not enough. Tedstone stresses that to lower calorie consumption, encourage healthier diets and tackle child obesity "deeper actions are needed."

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