Child obe­sity grows ten­fold glob­ally since 1975: study

The Phnom Penh Post - - LIFESTYLE - Mar­iëtte Le Roux

THE world had 10 times as many obese chil­dren and teenagers last year than in 1975, but un­der­weight kids still out­num­bered them, a study said yes­ter­day.

Warn­ing of a “dou­ble bur­den” of mal­nu­tri­tion, re­searchers said the rate of in­crease in obe­sity far out­stripped the de­cline in un­der-nu­tri­tion.

“If post-2000 trends con­tinue, child and ado­les­cent obe­sity is ex­pected to sur­pass mod­er­ate and se­vere un­der­weight by 2022,” re­searchers wrote in the Lancet med­i­cal journal.

The team found that there were 74 mil­lion obese boys aged 5-19 in 2016, up from 6 mil­lion four decades ear­lier.

For girls, the tally swelled from 5 mil­lion to 50 mil­lion.

By com­par­i­son, there were 117 mil­lion un­der­weight boys and 75 mil­lion un­der­weight girls last year after the num­ber peaked around the year 2000, the study said.

Al­most two-thirds of the un­der­weight chil­dren lived in South Asia.

Obe­sity bal­looned in ev­ery re­gion in the world, while the num­ber of un­der­weight chil­dren slowly de­creased ev­ery­where ex­cept South and South­east Asia, and Cen­tral, East and West Africa.

The preva­lence of un­der­weight chil­dren de­creased from 9.2 per­cent to 8.4 per­cent of girls aged 5-19 over the study pe­riod, and from 14.8 per­cent to 12.4 per­cent in boys.

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

In Nauru, the Cook Is­lands and Palau, more than 30 per­cent of chil­dren and teenagers were obese in 2016.

In some coun­tries in Poly­ne­sia and Mi­crone­sia, the Mid­dle East, North Africa, the Caribbean and the United States, more than one in five chil­dren were obese.

Ex­perts di­vide peo­ple into body mass cat­e­gories cal­cu­lated on the ba­sis of their weight-to-height ra­tio. These range from un­der­weight, nor­mal weight, over­weight and three cat­e­gories of obese.

Obe­sity comes with the risk of chronic dis­eases such as di­a­betes, while un­der­weight chil­dren are more at risk from in­fec­tious dis­eases.

Chil­dren in ei­ther cat­e­gory can be stunted if their diet does not in­clude healthy nu­tri­ents.

“There is a con­tin­ued need for poli­cies that en­hance food se­cu­rity in low-in­come coun­tries and house- holds, es­pe­cially in South Asia,” said study au­thor Ma­jid Ez­zati from Im­pe­rial Col­lege Lon­don.

“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.”

The team used the height and weight data of 129 mil­lion peo­ple older than five to es­ti­mate body mass trends for 200 coun­tries from 1975 to 2016.

While obe­sity in chil­dren and teens ap­pears to have plateaued in rich coun­tries, its rise con­tin­ued in lowand mid­dle-in­come coun­tries, they found.

“Very few poli­cies and pro­grammes at­tempt to make healthy foods such as whole grains and fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles af­ford­able to poor fam­i­lies,” Ez­zati said in a state­ment.

“Un­af­ford­abil­ity of healthy food op­tions to the poor can lead to so­cial in­equal­i­ties in obe­sity, and limit how much we can re­duce its bur­den.”

SUP­PLIED

A screen­shot from ban. which will not be screened in Cam­bo­dia after a gov­ern­ment

RALF HIRSCHBERGER/DPA/AFP

An over­weight child wears a sweat-shirt on Mon­day in Post­dam, east­ern Ger­many.

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