Based on a study published in The Lancet and conducted by Imperial College London (ICL) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), the “world will have more obese children and adolescents than underweight by 2022.”
This epidemiological study was conducting using data from 1000 researchers, looking at body mass index (BMI) using weight/height measurements and obesity levels from almost 130 million participants (31.5 million aged 5 to 19 and 97.4 million aged 20 and older) from 1975 to 2016.
Obesity rates have increased from less than 1% in children and adolescents (5 million girls and 6 million boys) to 6% in girls (50 million participants) and 8% in boys (74 million participants) in 2016. Globally, it has been reported that the number of obese individuals (ages 5 to 19) has increased from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016, a tenfold increase.
It was also found that the largest increase in obese children and adolescents since 1975 was found in East-Asia, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, UK, Middle East and North Africa.
Additionally, one of the greatest rises in the BMI of children and adolescents was found in Polynesia and Micronesia. The highest prevalence of underweight children and adolescents was found in India (highest for the past 40 years from 1975 to 2016).
Professor Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London and lead author of the study stated that: “… 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.”
Professor Ezzati also showed his concern stating: “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 also malnourished. 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.”
Professor Jaakko Tuomilehto of Dasman Diabetes Institute, one of the participating researchers in this study, expressed his concern regarding Kuwait. Unfortunately, Kuwait ranks among the highest of all countries for obesity. This is true for both adults, but alarming is that also for children. There is an urgent need to set up prevention and research programs that will reverse this situation. Prevention of childhood obesity should be one of the main public health actions in the country. This requires co-operation among all sectors of society, not only health sector.