Ten-time increase of worldwide childhood obesity

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The number of obese children and adolescents (aged 5 to 19 years) worldwide has risen ten-times in the past forty years, according to a new study led by Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO). The study involved over 1000 researchers, who make up the Non-Communicable Diseases Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC), and analysed data from almost 130 million people, the largest number of participants ever involved in a study of this type.

Researchers analysed height and weight measurements, and were able to calculate body mass index (BMI) to understand how obesity has changed worldwide from 1975 to 2016. BMI is a value that is generated to calculate if somebody is at a healthy weight for their height. A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness.

The researchers reported regional and country data for obesity and BMI. For example, girls in the UK had the 73rd highest obesity rate in the world (6th in Europe), and boys in the UK had the 84th highest obesity in the world (18th in Europe). Lead author Professor Majid Ezzati, of Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “Over the past four decades, obesity rates in children and adolescents have soared globally, and continue to do so in low- and middle-income countries. More recently, they have plateaued in higher income countries, although obesity levels there remain unacceptably high.”

If current trends continue, the researchers conclude that the world will have more children and adolescents who are obese than moderately or severely underweight by 2022.

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