Childhood obesity under 5 years reached “alarming” rate and became “an explosive nightmare” in developing countries, particularly in Africa, where the rate has doubled since 1990.
The authors of the report, members of the Commission on ending childhood obesity in the World Health Organization is stressed that for a long time, this phenomenon was not seen as an issue of major health and was even considered by some as the result of a chosen behavior within the family.
Childhood obesity: a public health priority globally
But the investigation for two years in more than 100 countries concluded that governments and public health policies worldwide must be first in line to stop this epidemic. “What is the main message? This is not the fault of the children,” reporters Peter Gluckman, co-President of the Commission.
Biological factors, inadequate access to a balanced diet, reduced physical activity in schools and non-regulation of trade in products that are fat are among the causes of worsening of the epidemic, which requires a response Global coordinated, the report says.
If nothing is done, “the obesity epidemic could negate the many health advances that have contributed to lengthening the life of the world”, warns the commission.
Gluckman has recognized that the recommendations mentioned in the report may seem to arise from common sense: promoting good eating habits, physical activity, psychological counseling of obese youth.
But as the authors point out, these common sense principles were not sufficiently put into practice by the governments and the number of overweight children has increased from 31,000,000 in 1990 to 41,000,000 in 2014.
“To date, progress in the fight against childhood obesity has been slow and uneven,” they say.
Inequalities between rich and poor
Childhood obesity “is an explosive nightmare in the developing world,” Gluckman said. In Africa, the number of children under 5 years in overweight or obese has almost doubled between 1990 and 2014, rising from 5.4 to 10.3 million.
The rate of increase in Asia is more difficult to calculate, noted Gluckman, but nearly half (48%) of children considered obese in the world live in Asian countries. A quarter live in Africa.
The report highlights that in rich countries, children from poor families are more likely to be obese, particularly because of the cheap price of fast food with high sugar foods.
However, in poor countries, children from wealthier families are more at risk of obesity, especially in countries where “culturally, an overweight child is often a sign of good health,” the report said.
According to the report, two biological processes expose a child to risk of obesity after birth.
The first, called “offset” the result of even mild malnutrition during pregnancy and early childhood, which may have an impact on genetic functions and make a child much more inclined to gain weight later.
The second process, said the development may occur when the pregnant mother is herself obese or have diabetes.
This “predisposes the child to excess fat associated with metabolic disorders and obesity,” the report said.
The authors call for a global response policies, global health institutions and individuals but Gluckman said it is not enough to encourage people to eat better and exercise.
“The diet and sport alone are not the solution,” he warned. “We have responsibilities towards children in the world to prevent them from becoming obese