UN-backed study reveals tenfold rise in child obesity rates

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Health workers measure and record the height and weight of Erlan Bernoupereinev, 3, at his home, in Kindik Uzyak Village in the Konlikul District, Republic of Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan. Photo: UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi

The number of obese children and adolescents worldwide has increased tenfold over the past 40 years, according to a study published on Wednesday.

It warns that if current trends continue, more youngsters will be obese than moderately or severely underweight, by 2022.

More than 1,000 researchers contributed to the study, which was coordinated by Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dianne Penn reports.

The study revealed that obesity rates among those aged five to 19 years rose from 11 million in 1975, to 124 million last year.

Numbers have "soared" globally and continue to do so in low- and middle-income countries, but have levelled off in higher-income nations.

East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa were among the areas with the largest increase, while the United States had the highest rates among high-income countries.

Lead author Professor Majid Ezzati of Imperial's School of Public Health said these "worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe," with healthy and nutritious foods becoming too expensive for poor families.

Curbing obesity is among the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which world leaders have agreed to achieve by 2030.

UN health agency, WHO, called on countries to step up efforts to address the problem in children, including through reducing consumption of cheap, ultra-processed, nutrient-poor foods while also promoting physical activity, among other measures.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’12″

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