Childhood obesity rates are now 10 times higher than they were 40 years ago, research has shown.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released the figures on World Obesity Day to raise awareness of the risks childhood obesity can cause in later life, which include chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
There are now 124 million young people around the world who are overweight, and the WHO estimates that if current trends continue then by 2022 numbers of obese children will have overtaken underweight young people worldwide.
“Over the past four decades, obesity rates in children and adolescents have soared globally, and continue to do so in low-and middle-income countries. More recently, they have plateaued in higher income countries, although obesity levels there remain unacceptably high,” said Professor Majid Ezzati, the study’s lead author from Imperial College London’s School of Public Health.
“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 also malnourished.”
Imperial College London researchers analysed trends recorded from more than 2,400 studies involving 130 million children aged between five and 19. They measured variations in height and weight between 1975 and 2016 and used this information to calculate Body Mass Index (BMI).
The findings, which appear in The Lancet, show that the number of obese children and adolescents worldwide increased from five million to 50 million among girls, and from six million to 74 million among boys.
Experts have predicted if the obesity rates continue to soar, as a result of bad health, the global cost will exceed £920bn every year from 2025.
“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,” added Prof Ezzati.
The government’s sugar tax will be implemented next year in a bid to reduce childhood obesity, but campaigners still argue more needs to be done, such as forcing confectionery manufacturers to cut the amount sugar their products contain.
Reducing rates of type 2 diabetes was one of the main reason we set up the award-winning Low Carb Program, a 10-week education course which provides guidance on how eating nutritious, healthy food and avoiding high-sugar, high-carbohydrate foods can lower the risk of health complications.

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