Obesity levels among children and teenagers has risen ten-fold in the past 40 years, meaning millions of adolescents around the world are now too fat, research shows.
Researchers at the World Obesity Federation conducted the largest survey on obesity of its kind, looking at obesity rates in 200 countries, the BBC reports. In the United Kingdom alone, one in 10 people ages five to 19 is obese. And obese kids tend to grow up to become obese adults, putting them at risk for various health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain kinds of cancer.
The study, released in time for World Obesity Day, warns that the costs of dealing with problems related to obesity will exceed £920 billion starting in 2025. And while childhood obesity seems to be dropping — or at least leveling off — in Europe and the United Kingdom, it remains a growing concern in other parts of the world, according to Majid Ezzati from Imperial College London, lead author on the research.
The authors believe that the wide availability of cheap, fatty foods is a big contributor to this global problem.
The biggest leap in obesity rates has been among adolescents in East Asia, particularly in China and India. Polynesia and Micronesia saw the highest obesity rates, with more than half of the young population clocking in as obese.
If these trends continue, the researchers predict that “obese” will soon be more normal than simply being overweight. Harry Rutter, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said,
This is a huge problem that will get worse. Even skinny people are heavier than they would have been ten years ago. We have not become more weak-willed, lazy or greedy. The reality is the world around us is changing.
Dr. Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said, “Our sugar reduction program 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 evidence is clear, that just telling people what to do won’t work. Whilst education and information are important, deeper actions are needed to help us lower calorie consumption and achieve healthier diets.”
The study was published in The Lancet.