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Global childhood obesity rising

Wednesday October 11th, 2017

Obesity will be the greatest health problem facing children worldwide within five years, experts warn today.

To mark World Obesity Day today (11 October), research articles and expert statements have been published on predicted future global trends in obesity.

The World Health Organisation warns that the number of children and adolescents with obesity has risen tenfold in the past four decades.

A large new study in The Lancet today (11 October) predicts that there will be more children and adolescents who are obese than underweight by 2022.

The researchers, from Imperial College London, UK, analysed information on almost 130 million people from 1975 to 2016 before reaching this conclusion.

Lead author Professor Majid Ezzati said: "These worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe. We need ways to make healthy, nutritious food more available at home and school, especially in poor families and communities, and regulations and taxes to protect children from unhealthy foods."

Further figures from the UK-based Obesity Health Alliance show that the health costs of obesity are soaring "as junk food companies pour millions into advertising".

The organisation points out that crisp, confectionary and sugary drinks brands put over 143 million UK pounds per year into advertising, which dwarfs the 5.2 million UK pound annual spend on government's flagship healthy eating campaign, Change 4 Life.

"The UK's obesity epidemic threatens to cripple the NHS financially, whilst putting the health of the nation at risk," says the group. They are calling on government to close existing loopholes to restrict children's exposure to junk food marketing across all media.

Professor Russell Viner of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health commented: "Whilst obesity rates amongst children from more affluent backgrounds have been improving, they have been worsening amongst our most deprived and vulnerable. Obesity is no longer the preserve of wealthy countries."

NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128.9 million children, adolescents, and adults. The Lancet 11 October 2017; doi: 10.1016/ S0140-6736(17)32129-3 [abstract]

Tags: Child Health | Diet & Food | World Health

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