We all know that obesity is on the rise, but just how much so isn’t often brought home to us until we see stats like this: there are 10 times more obese children – or 124 milion – in the world now there were in 1975.
And it rings true, if you think back to your’s and your kids’ school days – there were always one or two children who were larger than the rest, but it definitely wasn’t near the norm, as it is now coming close to being in some countries.
Research published in the respected British medical journal The Lancet today said that the number of obese children had soared from five million girls and six milion boys in 1975 to 50 million girls and 74 million boys. The numbers were based on a global analysis of trends in child and teenage obesity in 200 countries.
Now, globally, 5.6 per cent of girls and 7.8 per cent of boys are classed as obese. The number of children who are moderately and severely underweight is, of course, still larger, with 75 million girls and 117 million boys in that category – almost two-thirds of whom live in South Asia. But if post-2000 trends continue, the number of children and teenagers who are obese will surpass the number who’re moderately and severely underweight by 2022.
James Bentham of the University of Kent in the UK, one of the study’s authors, said in a report by Scimex that while average body mass had recently plateaued in Europe and North America, the issue had not gone away, because it still meant that one in five young people in the US and one in 10 in the UK were obese. In some countries, including the Polynesian Islands, more than 30 per cent of children and teenagers were in the obese category.
In Australia, the average BMI for boys was 18.6 in 1975 and 18.3 for girls, while last year it was 20.4 for boys and the same for girls, which is in the normal range, but the government’s own statistics say that one in five Aussie kids are now overweight or obese.
Majid Ezzati, another study author, from Imperial College London, said that current efforts to change eating patterns weren’t enough, because most countries had been reluctant to use ‘fat taxes’ or harsher regulation of the food industry to deal with the problem.
“Most importantly, very few policies and programmes attempt to make healthy foods such as whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables affordable to poor families,” Ezzati said.