More children and adolescents will be obese than moderately or severely underweight globally by 2022, according to a new study led by Imperial College London and the WHO.
The study, published in The Lancet ahead of today’s World Obesity Day, puts the blame squarely on food marketing, policies and pricing.
Researchers analysed the weight and height measurements of nearly 130 million five to 19-year-olds, making it the largest ever number of participants involved in an epidemiological study.
The study found girls in the UK had the 73rd highest obesity rate in the world (sixth in Europe); boys had the 84th highest obesity in the world (18th in Europe).
The island nation of Nauru was the country with the highest prevalence of obesity for girls (33.4%), while the Cook Islands had the highest for boys (33.3%).
In Europe, girls in Malta and boys in Greece had the highest obesity rates, comprising 11.3% and 16.7% of the population respectively.
The areas of the world with the largest increase in the number of obese children and adolescents were the high-income English-speaking regions of East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.
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 remain unacceptably high.
“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.”