Published: Wed, October 11, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

Children's obesity rates in rich countries may have peaked

Children's obesity rates in rich countries may have peaked

Current childhood obesity rates were highest in some Polynesian islands, where they exceeded 30 per cent.

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.

Despite the increase in child and adolescent obesity, globally, more children remain moderately or severely underweight, with 75 million girls and 117 million boys remaining moderately or severely underweight in 2016, found the study.

"While average BMI among children and adolescents has recently plateaued in Europe and North America, this is not an excuse for complacency as more than 1 in 5 young people in the U.S.A. and 1 in 10 in the United Kingdom are obese", said Bentham, of the University of Kent in England.

Obesity grew from 0.7 percent to 5.6 percent among girls and from 0.9 percent to 7.8 percent in boys. The number of girls who were obese climbed from 5 million to 50 million, while the number of boys increased from 6 million to 74 million over the same time period. Nearly two-thirds of these children live in South Asia.

Most highly developed countries have a significant percentage of overweight children, but the same trend is accelerating in middle-income countries, especially in Southeast Asia. BMI is a standard measurement that relates weight and height. "Even though we may see some signs of improvement, we can not be complacent, and we need to ramp up our actions much more significantly to act across the life-course and across all of society", said Harry Rutter, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: "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".

The following side-by-side graphics, more than any others in the study, show the divide.

The largest increase in the number of obese children and adolescents has been in East Asia. India had the highest prevalence of moderately and severely underweight young people across the four decades.

Canada was ranked 44th for obesity among boys and 67th for girls.

Among developed countries, researchers estimated that obesity rates among children and teenagers had recently plateaued at about 10 percent in the U.K. and about 20 percent in the United States.

The WHO has published an Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) Implementation Plan, which it says gives countries clear guidance on effective actions to curb childhood obesity.

"It's associated with a stigma, so psycho-social consequences for the children". Starting in the late 1970s and continuing through the 1980s, much of sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and parts of Latin America were affected.

British girls have the 73rd-highest obesity rate in the world and boys the 84th, down from 27th and 39th respectively in 1975.

"We have not become more weak-willed, lazy or greedy".

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