The number of obese children and adolescents worldwide has risen tenfold in the past four decades, says a new study which also shows more boys than girls are getting fatter.
The study done by the World Health Organisation and Imperial College London revealed obesity in those aged between five and 19 years has increased from one per cent (which is equivalent to five million girls and six million boys) in 1975 to nearly six per cent in girls (50 million) and nearly eight per cent in boys (74 million) in 2016.
Combined, the number of obese five to 19-year-olds rose more than tenfold globally, from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016. An additional 213 million were overweight in 2016 but fell below the threshold for obesity.
Experts are now warning that if nothing is done, the world will have more obese children and adolescents than underweight ones by 2022, adding that the trend predicts a greater risk of non-communicable diseases including diabetes, kidney, lung and heart diseases.
They also called on caretakers to reduce the time children spend on screen-based and sedentary leisure activities by promoting greater participation in physical activity through active recreation and sports.
The study was published in The Lancet on Wednesday as the world celebrated World Obesity Day.
Over 130 million people aged over five years and 31.5 million people aged five to 19, and 97.4 million aged 20 and older participated in the study making it the largest ever number of participants involved in an epidemiological study.
The study analysed weight and height measurements of the participants. More than 1,000 people participated in the study, which looked at body mass index (BMI) and how obesity has changed worldwide from 1975 to 2016.
The study calculated and compared BMI among children, adolescents and adults from 1975 to 2016, and made projections based on current trends in obesity rates.
BMI is used to determine whether you are in a healthy weight range for your height.
Lead author Professor Majid Ezzati, of Imperial’s School of Public Health, said obesity levels remain unacceptably high more so in low and middle income countries raising concern on the high cases of high blood pressure.
“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,” he said
“We need ways to make healthy, nutritious food more available at home and school, especially in poor families and communities, and push for regulations and taxes to protect children from unhealthy foods.” he said.