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Childhood obesity increased 10-fold over last four decades

Published on 11/10/17 at 10:44am

An analysis of childhood and teenage obesity levels around the world have revealed that the numbers who are considered dangerously overweight has spiked enormously over the last four decades.

The study, published by The Lancet, was conducted with data that spanned over 200 countries and showed that, at present, 124 million children are considered obese.

Alongside this serious cause for concern arrived a further study, emerging from the World Obesity Federation, that indicated the huge cost increasing levels of obesity would place upon the global economy. It revealed that the cost of global obesity levels will reach $1.2 trillion per year by 2025.

Obesity is linked to a huge number of non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and cancer. It is then up to the healthcare systems globally to cover these costs, a worry across many nations, but particularly higher-income countries, that are struggling to manage spiralling costs associated with many factors, including ageing populations and the impacts of unhealthy lifestyles.

The research published in The Lancet pinned the major part of the problem down to the prevalence and popularity of energy-dense yet nutritionally-low food.

Lead author Professor Majid Ezzati, of Imperial’s School of Public Health, spoke on the causes of the increase of obesity: “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 at greater risk of diseases, like diabetes. 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.”

As mentioned by Ezzati, a big part of the problem is that of cost for many families; unhealthy food is markedly cheaper than healthier alternatives and yet, despite recommendations, many higher-income countries are wary of imposing higher taxes on unhealthy food. Partly due to the fact that it would lead to the prices of such food increasing, placing an increasing burden on those who are struggling to get by with their current income.

Further than this, it was noted that, in higher-income nations, that the children from wealthier families were now showing a decline in levels of obesity. This factor points towards a future where income will cause an even greater disparity of health in later life.

Ben Hargreaves

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