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Child and teen obesity soars tenfold worldwide in 40 years - World Health Organization report

11 October 2017

Over the next eight years, the USA is set to spend $4.2 trillion on treating obesity-related disease, Germany will spend $390 billion, Brazil $251 billion and the United Kingdom $237 billion if these countries do not do more to try to prevent it, the Guardian quoted the federation as saying.

The almost 200 million children classified as moderately or severely underweight also continue to pose a major public health challenge, the report's authors said. Starting in the late 1970s and continuing through the 1980s, much of sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and parts of Latin America were affected.

Majid Ezzati, another study author, from Imperial College London, said that current efforts to change eating patterns weren't enough, because most countries had been reluctant to use "fat taxes" or harsher regulation of the food industry to deal with the problem.

While obesity in adults is measured simply using Body Mass Index (BMI), identifying it in children is more complex.

"But our data also shows that the transition from underweight to overweight and obesity can happen quickly in an unhealthy nutritional transition with an increase in nutrient-poor, energy-dense foods".

Globally, more children are still underweight rather than obese although the researchers think that could change by 2022.

"Places that a few decades ago, there may have been very little obesity and a fair amount of underweight children, suddenly are bordering on having epidemics".

"Children are not getting physical activity in the school days, there is poor food opportunities in many schools, walking and cycling to school is going down in many countries, unsafe in many other countries, and parents are not being given the right, sufficient advice on nutrition", said Fiona Bull of WHO's department of non-communicable diseases.

Obese children exercising
GETTYRates of child obesity are accelerating in east south and south-east Asia a study shows

World Health Organization has already recommended a 20% tax on sugary drinks to reduce consumption.

Co-researcher Dr Harry Rutter, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "This is a huge problem that will get worse".

Last Updated: October 10, 2017.

Although child obesity rates appear to be stabilising in many high-income European countries, including the United Kingdom, they are accelerating at an alarming rate in many other parts of the world, lead researcher Prof Majid Ezzati from Imperial College London says.

"Unaffordability of healthy food options not only leads to social inequalities in overweight and obesity, but might also limit the effect of policies that target unhealthy foods", the authors write.

He said: "Don't be fooled by a report which initially would have you believe that child obesity levels have plateaued in the UK". "As the clock goes forward, it becomes more and more concentrated in South Asia and in the poorest pockets of Africa", Ezzati said.

"England is at the forefront of addressing childhood obesity - 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".

"Whilst education and information are important, deeper actions are needed to help us lower calorie consumption and achieve healthier diets".

Child and teen obesity soars tenfold worldwide in 40 years - World Health Organization report