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11 October 2017, 05:10 | Melissa Porter
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While the obesity rate among children in rich countries may have peaked, kids in developing countries are increasingly putting on unhealthy pounds, according to research released Tuesday. In 2016, 75 million girls and 117 million boys were moderately or severely underweight.
"If post-2000 trends continue, child and adolescent obesity is expected to surpass moderate and severe underweight by 2022", researchers wrote in The Lancet medical journal.
There will be 2.7 billion overweight and obese adults by 2025, many of whom are likely to end up needing medical care which means a third of the global population will be overweight or obese.
Polynesia and Micronesia had the highest rates of child obesity past year, at 25.4% in girls and 22.4% in boys, followed by "the high-income English-speaking region" that includes the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Britain. The number of girls who were obese climbed from 5 million to 50 million, while the number of boys increased from 6 million to 74 million over the same time period. It added that nearly two thirds of the world's children and adolescents, who are moderately or severely underweight, live in South Asia. Besides the United States and some countries in the Middle East and North Africa, obesity rates of about 20 percent or more were seen in the Caribbean (Bermuda and Puerto Rico).
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.
Overall, one in every five children on the planet is either obese - meaning more than two standard deviations from the median on growth charts - or overweight - meaning more than one standard deviation. "Even though we may see some signs of improvement, we can not be complacent, and we need to ramp up our actions much more significantly to act across the life-course and across all of society", said Harry Rutter, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
"The goal of those programs should be not just more calories but quality calories", Ezzati said. But Ezzati says it also has a big impact in childhood. India had the highest prevalence of moderately and severely underweight young people across the four decades.
"It's associated with a stigma, so psycho-social consequences for the children".
Much of the increase in recent years has taken place in developing countries while obesity rates among young people in Europe and the United States were said to have plateaued.
Canada was ranked 44th for obesity among boys and 67th for girls. Starting in the late 1970s and continuing through the 1980s, much of sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and parts of Latin America were affected.
Image copyright NCD Risk Factor Collaboration Image caption The highest rates of obesity are shown in red, followed by orange and yellow.
"We have not become more weak-willed, lazy or greedy".
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