Colombian twins Juan Manuel and John Anderson Giraldo walk during a march against infant obesity on Sept 24, 2011 in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia. The twins are 18 months old and weigh 16 kilos, while their ideal weight should be 11 kilos. The latest results from the Colombian National Health and Nutrition Situation reveal that infant obesity is on the rise, with one in six children between the ages of 5 to 17 considered to be overweight or obese. (RAUL ARBOLEDA / AFP)
GENEVA - The population of obese children and adolescents
worldwide has risen tenfold in the past four decades, which has become a global
health crisis that threatens to worsen unless drastic actions are taken, the
World Health Organization (WHO) warned Wednesday.
On the occasion of World Obesity Day, the WHO and Imperial College London released their latest study on childhood and adolescent obesity worldwide, which was published in the medical journal The Lancet.
It analyzed weight and height measurements from nearly 130 million people aged over five years, including 31.5 million aged five to 19 and 97.4 million aged 20 and older, making it the largest ever number of participants involved in an epidemiological study. 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.
Colombian 8-year old Dana Garcia walks up the stairs during a medical check-up, in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia on Feb 25, 2015, after she was rescued by members of "Gorditos de Corazon" (Chubby at Heart) foundation in Sucre department and then transferred to Medellin city. Garcia, whose ideal weight is 24 kg, is currently 90 kg. (RAUL ARBOLEDA / AFP)
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The figures show that the obesity rates in the world's children and adolescents increased from less than one percent, or some five million girls and six million boys, in 1975 to nearly six percent in girls (50 million) and nearly eight percent in boys (74 million) in 2016. Combined, the number of obese five- to 19-year-olds rose more than tenfold globally, from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016, while an additional 213 million were overweight in 2016 but fell below the threshold for obesity.
"These worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe," said Professor Majid Ezzati from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, who was the study's lead author.
A nurse specializing in acupuncture sticks long sharp needles into the stomach of a young boy as a form of treatment for severe obesity 02 April 1999 at a clinic in Tianjin, an hour south of Beijing. Two decades of breakneck growth and a rigid one-child policy have left China battling the weighty problem - hugely obese children, known as "xiao pangzi" or "little fatties." (STEPHEN SHAVER / AFP)
The figures show that the obesity rates in the world's children and adolescents increased from less than one percent in 1975 to nearly six percent in 2016
Healthy nutritious foods are becoming too expensive for poor families
and communities, he continued, urging for more availability at home and school
of these kind of foods, especially in poor families and communities.
Ezzati also advised that regulations and taxes to protect children from unhealthy foods roll out, or a future generation of children and adolescents growing up obese will be at greater risk of diseases, like diabetes.
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.
"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," said Dr. Fiona Bull, program coordinator for surveillance and population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases at the WHO.
As part of the solutions, the WHO released a summary of the Ending Childhood Obesity Implementation Plan, offering countries clear guidance to curb childhood and adolescent obesity. Topping the WHO guidance are promoting intake of healthy foods and physical activity, followed by preconception and pregnancy care, early childhood diet and physical activity, health and nutrition for school-age children, and weight management.
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Particularly, countries should aim to "reduce consumption of cheap, ultra-processed, calorie dense, nutrient poor foods," as well as "the time children spend on screen-based and sedentary leisure activities by promoting greater participation in physical activity through active recreation and sports," said Dr. Bull.
Connor McCreaddie (Left), an eight-year-old British boy who weighs 90 kilograms, and his mother Nicola McKeown pose in front of their house in North Shields, north-east England, 26 February 2007. McCreaddie will be allowed to stay with his mother after social workers decided against taking him into care Feb 27th, 2007. McCreaddie, whose diet is largely made up of junk food such as chips and curry, faced being looked after by North Tyneside Council in north-east England. Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt spoke out on the case, saying it was important that the "growing threat "to this child's health and happiness" was tackled. (STRINGER / AFP)