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While World Obesity Day began in 2015 as an effort “to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight, and to reverse the obesity crisis,” the campaign’s creators focused more on adults than children.
According to the study’s lead author, Professor Majid Ezzati of Imperial College’s School of Public Health, the number of obese children and adolescents (aged 5 to 19 years) has soared globally, from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016.
Though unclear as to the specific cause, the authors believe the findings might be due to an increase in the consumption of energy-dense foods, especially highly processed carbohydrates, which lead to weight gain and poor lifelong health. Not only that, but predictions suggest that global levels of child and adolescent obesity will surpass the same age group by 2022 if something isn’t done to prevent it.
“Overweight and obesity is a global health crisis today, and threatens to worsen in coming years unless we start taking drastic action,” says Dr. Fiona Bull, a program manager on the prevention of noncommunicable diseases management team at WHO.
“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,” Ezzati added. “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.”
Obesity can take a toll on the body in a variety of ways. For most children, severe weight gain will result in high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. But it doesn’t end there. Childhood obesity can also lead to other problems, such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heartburn, difficulty breathing (i.e., asthma or sleep apnea), joint and musculoskeletal pain, as well as psychological challenges that may extend into adulthood.
So, what can you do to help? Start by educating yourself and your family on eating right and finding a healthy balance. In other words, don’t be afraid to spend an extra 10 minutes at the grocery store checking labels and swapping your kids’ favorite snacks for something a bit more nutritious.
Remember the old adage, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
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