Global childhood obesity increases over ten-fold in 40 years

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A further 213 million children and teenagers were overweight, but fell below the threshold for obesity.

Childhood obesity is one of the greatest health challenges of the 21st century.

The most obese children (above 30%) were in some islands in Polynesia, with the United States trailing close by. Several Arab countries (eg Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) also had similar rates.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 contributors participated in the study which looked at body mass index and how obesity has changed worldwide from 1975 to 2016.

Between 1975 and 2016 the estimated number of obese boys in the world increased from six million to 74 million.

"While average BMI among children and adolescents has recently plateaued in Europe and North America, this is not an excuse for complacency as more than 1 in 5 young people in the U.S. and 1 in 10 in the United Kingdom are obese".

Children and adolescents have rapidly transitioned from mostly underweight to mostly overweight in many middle-income countries, including in East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

If current trends continue, more children and adolescents will be obese than moderately or severely underweight by 2022.

The study led by Imperial College London and the World Health Organisation said governments needed to do more to turn the tide.

"We are seeing underweight continuing, it's going down slowly". Basically, researchers are indirectly calling for taxing sugar and other unhealthy foods.

The EASO Childhood Obesity Task Force (COTF) is convinced that considering obesity as a chronic disease is a crucial step for increasing individual and societal awareness, enhance the development of novel preventive interventions and health policies, and improve the care of children with obesity worldwide.

Ezzati said countries need to make healthy foods more affordable, saying that junk foods are often the cheapest option.

"These worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe, with healthy nutritious foods too expensive for poor families and communities".

Childhood obesity is a complex disease, which in the majority of children has a multifactorial basis. The first problems for these obese children are usually emotional or psychological. Healthcare systems should be adapted and professionals should be trained to prevent and treat childhood obesity.

The study predicts that if the trends continue, by 2020 the global level of child and adolescent obesity will surpass those for moderately and severely underweight youth from the same age group.

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

While some have been getting fatter, more children are underweight and malnourished. Hopefully, faced with the evidence, political figures will take more serious action.

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