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Child and adolescent obesity jumps ten-fold in 40 years

Obesity in children and adolescents has increased ten-fold worldwide in the past 40 years, say researchers who call for treatments such as behavioural therapy to change diet and exercise.

Obesity in children and adolescents has increased ten-fold worldwide in the past 40 years, say researchers who call for treatments such as behavioural therapy to change diet and exercise

obese
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Obesity in children and adolescents has increased ten-fold in the past 40 years, a global study has revealed.

From 1975 to 2016 the number of girls diagnosed with obesity worldwide rose from five million to 50 million and the number of boys from six million to 74 million.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the World Health Organisation gathered body mass index data from 2,416 studies involving 31.5 million young people aged 5-19 in 200 countries.

The rates were highest at above 30% in some islands in Polynesia, and were 20% or higher in the United States and countries in the Middle East, North Africa and the Caribbean. Asia had the fastest acceleration.

Global prevalence

Overall, the global prevalence of child and adolescent obesity increased from 0.7% to 5.6% for girls and from 0.9% to 7.8% for boys.

In addition to the 124 million children classified as obese in 2016, a further 213 million children and adolescents were in the overweight range.

In the same period, the prevalence of those who were moderately or severely underweight in 2016 decreased from 9.2% to 8.4% for girls and from 14.8% to 12.4% for boys.

The authors say policies to prevent child obesity need to be matched by improved treatments, such as behavioural therapy to change diet and exercise, screening and management of hypertension and liver problems, and in extreme cases bariatric surgery.


Ezzati M et al (2017) Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128·9 million children, adolescents, and adults. The Lancet. doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32129-3

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