Low- and Mid-Income Countries Have Highest Number of Obese Children Aged Five or Less, says WHO Report

New numbers released by the World Health Organization indicate that the childhood obesity trend shows no signs of flagging. Surprisingly, obesity rates among children younger than five years are rising the fastest in developing countries, the agency said.

A report, published Monday by the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO), said that, worldwide, no less than 41 million children aged five years and younger suffer from obesity. This marks 10 million more obese children in the world since 1990. Breaking the perception that obesity among children is most prevalent in developed, affluent countries, the report, surprisingly, states that the number of obese children in low- and mid-income countries is higher.

The report ascribes the breakneck speed of globalization and urbanization in developing economies as the factor fuelling obesity. Here are the highlights of report:
  • While the number of overweight children under the age of five stood at 7.5 mn in 1990, it has more than doubled to touch 15.5 mn in 2014
  • Nearly 50% of all obese and overweight children aged five years or less live in Asia, whereas 25% live in Africa
  • In Africa, there were 5.4 mn overweight children in 1990 and the number had dramatically risen to 10.3 million by 2014
ECHO co-chair, Sania Nishtar, was quoted in an official statement as saying that obesity and overweight have health-related, physical, and psychological consequences on children. She said in the statement that, “obesity can impact on educational attainment too” and stressed on the undesirable economic impact that obesity will have in the coming years.

The WHO also said that the growing consumption of unhealthy food and beverages spurred by the aggressive marketing of these products was a key factor contributing to the increased number of obese and overweight children. The report recommends governments to promote a healthy school environment, regular physical activity, and healthy foods.


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