Obesity levels among the young have surged over the past forty years, with a staggering 124 million children and teenagers now considered medically ‘too fat.’
Encompassing results from some 200 countries, medical journal The Lancet’s obesity study is bigger than any previously published. Among its statistics, 10 per cent of UK-based five-to-17-year olds are now considered obese.
Obese children will probably remain obese into adulthood. That, say experts, makes them much more susceptible to future health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes and numerous cancers.
The Lancet’s obese children/teenagers study was published on World Obesity Day. Its publication coincided with the World Obesity Federation’s announcement that, from 2025 onwards, the annual worldwide obesity illness treatment cost will be £920 billion-plus. The weight gains aren’t so pronounced among Western European children but increasingly rapidly elsewhere, partly because unhealthy foods are more prolific, more widely-distributed and cheaper than ever.
India, China and East Asia have seen the steepest child obesity rate rises, while Polynesia and Micronesia are where rates are highest. If present trends carry on, there’ll soon be more obese children and teenagers than underweight ones.
Researcher the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s Dr Harry Rutter describes this as “a huge problem that will get worse.”
“Even skinny people are heavier than they would have been ten years ago”, he explains. “We have not become more weak-willed, lazy or greedy. The reality is the world around us is changing."
Rutter and colleagues meta-analysed some 2,400 previous studies’ findings. As a result, the heights and weights of approximately 32 million children and teenagers, aged from five up to 19, were tracked.
Global Weight Increases
So, how to counter these global weight increases? Increased physical activity uptake could be one option, as could more widely-implemented fast food taxation. As of late 2017, 20-or-so of the world’s nations now have a sugary drinks tax in place.
“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”, says Public Health England’s chief nutritionist, Dr Alison Tedstone. "The evidence is clear, that just telling people what to do won't work. Whilst education and information are important, deeper actions are needed to help us lower calorie consumption and achieve healthier diets."