Childhood obesity has been a massive issue for some time now, but there is a big chance the problem will only become much more serious in the coming years: A new report from the World Obesity Federation (WOF) predicts that the number of obese children and adolescents will climb to 250 million by 2030.
According to the federation’s first Atlas of Childhood Obesity, there are currently 158 million obese children around the world. This figure is expected to reach 206 million by 2025 and 250 million in 2030.
CNN writes that children living in developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are at the highest risk of having obesity, due to rapid changes in people’s lifestyles and the aggressive marketing of junk food.
Dr. Tim Lobstein, director of policy at WOF and one of the authors of the report, tells CNN, “There’s a transition away from traditional diets and ways of doing things. People are expending less energy, becoming more sedentary and adopting a Western-style diet that’s high in sugar, oil, starch, and fat.”
Dr. Lobstein also emphasizes that this issue is going to place a huge burden on healthcare systems since obese children are likely to be obese adults and develop serious health issues like diabetes and heart disease.
“In many countries, the health services won’t cope,” he tells The Guardian. “There may be a certain fatigue in listening to these figures getting worse and worse, but doing nothing is going to cost an awful lot more than making serious interventions in the marketplace to reduce the global marketing of soft drinks and ultra-processed foods.”
Dr. Louise Baur, a consultant pediatrician and head of child and adolescent health at the University of Sydney and childhood obesity ambassador at the WOF, also discusses the different factors behind the rise of childhood obesity aside from increasing consumption of unhealthy food.
“What we were seeing was the rise of more convenience foods, more motorized less active transport, fewer kids biking and walking, the rise of sedentary pursuits and the use of [computer] screens by children,” Dr. Baur tells The Guardian. “The world is so different. We have seen neighborhoods change. Urban environments have lost walkability and green spaces.”
To help combat obesity, parents are encouraged to teach their kids to eat healthily. Kids Health recommends incorporating fruits and vegetables into children’s daily routines, limiting their intake of sugary drinks and fatty foods, and providing them with healthy snacks, like fruits, whole-grain crackers, and low-fat yogurt. (Read about how to promote healthy eating habits in your kids here.)
In April 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) also released new guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep for children under 5 years old to improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
The guidelines include ensuring that kids between 1 and 4 years old engage in moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity for at least 180 minutes per day. (Read the complete guidelines here.)
Obesity does not only cause physical health issues; research has also found that it is linked to certain emotional problems. Click here to learn more.