Published: Wed, October 11, 2017
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Study claims obese children will outnumber underweight children by 2022

Study claims obese children will outnumber underweight children by 2022

The weight problems that preoccupy Americans typically are about how to lose weight, not gain it.

TUESDAY, Oct. 10, 2017 (HealthDay News) - Childhood obesity has increased more than 10-fold worldwide since 1975, a new study reports.

Overall, one in every five children on the planet is either obese - meaning more than two standard deviations from the median on growth charts - or overweight - meaning more than one standard deviation.

"The trends show that without serious, concerted action to address obesity. the health of millions of people will be needlessly placed in great jeopardy, leading to huge human and economic costs to communities", said study author Leanne Riley, of the World Health Organization (WHO).

But there's a flip side to this story.

Dr. Nathalie Farpour-Lambert, the president-elect of the European Association for the Study of Obesity, said in a statement that obesity in childhood has a tendency to continue into adulthood, so that most who are obese as children will be obese into adulthood.

The percentage of boys who were obese rose from 2.4% to 10.9%, while their numbers increased from 160,000 to 620,000. Nearly two-thirds of these children live in South Asia, where some governments' ability to feed their citizens has been unable to keep up with countries' booming populations.

"We don't only have inequality, we have widening inequality, and we're not getting any better at dealing with it", said Dr Rutter. "Even though we may see some signs of improvement, we can not be complacent, and we need to ramp up our actions much more significantly to act across the life-course and across all of society", said Harry Rutter, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The investigators relied on information from more than 2,400 prior studies. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is classified as a healthy weight, 25 to 29.9 considered overweight and 30 and over obese. India had the highest prevalence of moderately and severely underweight young people across the four decades.

The World Obesity Federation, along with the Lancet and the World Health Organisation, published the new data, revealing the continual increase in childhood obesity and the financial consequences of untreated obesity at all ages. The length of exposure to obesity is also associated with the risk of developing related co-morbidities over time, in particular non-communicable chronic diseases (NCDs). In girls, it can create problems with pregnancy, including preterm birth and maternal death.

Polynesia and Micronesia had the highest rates of child obesity a year ago, 25.4 percent in girls and 22.4 percent in boys, followed by "the high-income English-speaking region" that includes the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Britain. Large increases also are being seen in North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. "There is a continued need for policies that enhance food security in low-income countries and households, especially in South Asia".

Unlike the obesity trend, the number of children and adolescents who are underweight has been declining globally since 1975, the paper found, but numbers remain high.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: "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".

These days, the issue is very regionally concentrated - part of what one researcher called "this polarization of the world".

Obesity grew from 0.7 percent to 5.6 percent among girls and from 0.9 percent to 7.8 percent in boys.

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