Population 2.0: Poor and Unhealthy into the 21st Century
Over 40 million Children Reach Extreme Levels of Obesity.
Childhood obesity is not just a problem of rich countries. In fact, it is much less so in wealthy nations. According to the World Health Organization, of the 42 million children under five who are overweight in the world, 35 million, or 83%, are part of middle and low income families.
“It’s an explosive nightmare,” says the World Health Organization (WHO), which has advanced data from the Commission to End Childhood Obesity; a body that was established two years ago.
Apart from the figures, the WHO is concerned about childhood development. For example, in Africa, the number of obese and overweight children under five years of age has nearly doubled since 1990, according to this study.
Obesity problems go beyond the scale and into degenerative diseases that are the result of being overweight, obese and morbidly obese. The consequences of these diseases are now much more prevalent in so-called developed countries, where the crisis is not one of undernutrition due to lack of food, but of malnutrition due to the consumption of fast food.
In poor countries, malnutrition is not the only problem. There are more cases of diseases such as dengue, cholera, tuberculosis and AIDS, to name but a few. It is also important to remember that the third world also suffers from high incidence of cancers, cardiovascular diseases and traffic accidents, not to mention other causes of death that were once characteristic of rich countries.
The report, whose data are not yet completed, has drawn a first conclusion: “It is not the child’s fault,” said Monday at a press conference the co-chair of the commission, Peter Gluckman.
According to the data from the WHO, in 2014, 48% of all obese and overweight children lived in Asia, and 25% in Africa. “The region where the problem is so alarming and where t is fast growing is Asia,” warned Gluckman.
Among the factors behind the increase in childhood obesity figures include biological factors, the environment and, of course, food intake. The report also includes other issues such as inadequate access to health services, decreased physical activity in schools and the deregulation of fattening foods. Any solution to the exploding obesity epidemic requires a comprehensive and coordinated response, the report indicates.
Gluckman has explained that it has been detected that Asian children have a specific metabolism that makes them retain fat in the abdominal part of the body, the area surrounding vital organs, exactly where it is most harmful to health.
“We are studying why, but it is a very dangerous development because that fat is installed long before the external and the child shows signs of overweight and obesity on the outside,” he explained.
With regard to Latin America, it is estimated that the prevalence of overweight children in the region stands at 8% in children under five.
Gluckman has pointed out that Latin American leaders are well aware of the problem and are seriously responding, and noted that many countries are directing their policies in the right direction.
“Keep in mind that obesity impacts the quality of life of children, affecting their physical, psychological state, their ability to study, to relate, and will put many barriers in life, so we must urgently deal with this matter,” said Sania Sishtar, the co-chair of the commission.
In addition, Sishtar has warned that childhood obesity is a major factor in the possibility of developing obesity during adulthood and, consequently, major noncommunicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease.
In this situation, the study’s authors expect the WHO Executive Board, meeting this week in Geneva at its 138 edition, to note and suggest to the World Health Assembly to adopt a resolution urging countries to implement measures to fight obesity.
Among them, the report recommends to educate children, parents, teachers and leaders about the importance of eating healthy food and reducing the intake of sugars and fats. It is also necessary to promote physical activity and reduce sedentarism.
In extreme cases of adult obesity in women, the report suggests that they enter into programs that help prevent diabetes for them and their future children, since many cases of obesity may be related to what happened during the months of pregnancy.