World

Child, teen obesity up tenfold in 40 years: Study

GENEVA: The number of obese children and adolescents worldwide has jumped tenfold in 40 years and the rise is accelerating in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Asia, a major study said yesterday.

Childhood and teen obesity rates have levelled off in the United States, north-western Europe and other rich countries, but remain "unacceptably high" there, researchers at Imperial College London and the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

"Over 40 years, we have gone from about 11 million to a more than tenfold increase to over 120 million obese children and adolescents throughout the world," lead author Majid Ezzati of Imperial's School of Public Health, told a news conference.

This means that nearly 8 per cent of boys and nearly 6 per cent of girls worldwide were obese last year, against less than one per cent for both sexes in 1975.

An additional 213 million children aged 5-19 were overweight last year, but fell below the threshold for obesity, according to the largest ever study, based on height and weight measurements of 129 million people.

The researchers called for better nutrition at home and at school, and more physical exercise to prevent a generation from becoming adults at greater risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancers due to excessive weight.

Clear food labels on salt, sugar and fat content are needed to help consumers make "healthy choices", the study said.

Taxation and tough restrictions on marketing of junk food should be considered, it said. WHO has already recommended a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks to reduce consumption.

If current trends continue, in 2022 there will be more obese children and teenagers worldwide than underweight ones, who number 192 million, half of them in India, the study said.

Among high-income countries, the US had "the highest obesity rates for girls and boys", 19.5 per cent and 23.3 per cent, respectively. - REUTERS

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