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Childhood and adolescent obesity rates to surpass underweight numbers by '22: report

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NORMAN, Okla. – Today, Oct. 11th, is World Obesity Day. And the rate of obesity amongst children and adolescents around the world has rapidly increased according to a new study by the Imperial College of London and World Health Organization (WHO).

The report, published this week in the Lancet, looked at obesity rates around the world, since 1975, with the number of worldwide obese children (from five to 19 years old) rising from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million 2016.

The study analyzed weight and height measurements from about 130 million people aged over five years (31.5 million people aged five to 19, and 97.4 million aged 20 and older). Never before in history had so many people participating in an epidemiological study. It mainly focused on the evolution of the Body Mass Index (BMI).

“These worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe, with healthy nutritious foods too expensive for poor families and communities. The trend predicts a generation of children and adolescents growing up obese and at greater risk of diseases, like diabetes. 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,” said Professor Majid Ezzati, of Imperial’s School of Public Health and main author of the study.

At the opposite, 193 million of children were underweight in 2016. However, the study says if the increase rate of child and adolescent obesity continues it will surpass the number of underweight children by 2022.

Both underweight and overweight children seem to have a common root to their problems: malnutrition due to poverty. The authors added the consumption of highly processed carbohydrates has increased overweight while reducing health condition.

“These data highlight, remind and reinforce that overweight and obesity is a global health crisis today, and threatens to worsen in coming years unless we start taking drastic action,” said Fiona Bull, the program coordinator for surveillance and population-based prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at WHO.

WHO also released a summary of the Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) Implementation Plan.

The plan has for purpose to guide countries to reduce childhood and adolescent obesity by proposing clear instructions. Even if most of these guidelines are already known such as promoting healthy food and sports activities.

It is the details of information provided that make the ECHO Implementation Plan a powerful tool in order to eradicate obesity.

“Obesity is truly at crisis levels: there has been a ten-fold increase in the number of obese children and adolescents over the last four decades. The crisis is especially severe in low- and middle-income countries, where obesity is rising the fastest.

The result is a terrible rise in human suffering, which also carries huge economic costs and stalled human development.

This new report is a timely reminder both of the scope of the crisis and the need for a more robust and urgent response.

Anti-obesity policies like sugary drinks taxes are working, and the faster we spread them, the more lives we can save,” said businessman and philanthropist Michael R. Bloomberg, the WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases.

In 2016, the childhood obesity rate was highest in Polynesia and Micronesia. However, it is in East Asia, the high-income, English-speaking region, and the Middle East and North Africa where obesity rates increased the fastest.

According to The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America released on August 2017, Oklahoma has the eleventh adolescent (from 10 to 17 years old) combined overweight; obesity rate in the USA. Coincidence or not, Oklahoma has also the eleventh child food insecurity rate in the country at 22.6 percent.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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