According to the World Obesity Federation, many children who are overweight are also found to have stunted growth.
A study published in The Lancet medical journal attributes the stunted growth and obesity to poor nutrition and lack of exercise.
“An apparent increase in prevalence of apparent overweight needs to be recognized as perhaps not entirely due to excess body weight per se, but could be confounded by low height for age,” the authors of the study say.
Stunted growth brought about by poor nutrition will have a direct effect on a child’s Body Mass Index (BMI), a measurement system that indicates whether a person is underweight, normal, overweight or obese.
This is because the BMI measuring system takes into account a person’s height and checks if it coincides with his/her weight. If a child has stunted growth, it increases the possibility of him/her being categorized as overweight or obese, not because of excess fat, but because of height.
"A study in Sao Paulo, Brazil, found that 6 per cent of children in low-income urban households showed excess body weight associated with stunting, and that obesity associated with stunting was more common than obesity without stunting,” according to the study.
Urban Indian children were 2.5cm shorter than average, and children in Mexico were shorter by even more so with 6cm, it adds. In England, the National School Measurement program found overweight kids from low income households were shorter than average.
The World Obesity Federation strongly encourages getting the proper nutrition needed for growth by eating healthy. It also raises awareness on the aggressive marketing of cheap products by multinational food companies that not only cause obesity but also stunt growth due to its lack of nutritional substance.
Worldwide, 114 million infants under 5 years old are overweight, of this 81 million are overweight and 33 million fall into the obese range, The Lancet reports.
It adds that a total of 300 million children under 18 years old are overweight or obese.
The Lancet researchers offer a few suggestions for combating obesity, one of the more significant of which is to promote healthy food preferences in children by keeping them away from junk food.
”Not only can the companies influence children’s immediate dietary preferences, but they also benefit from building taste preferences and brand loyalty early in life, which last into adulthood,” the reports said.
Another is to regulate how unhealthy food is sold to kids, by urging the government to make stricter regulations against the “sophisticated marketing of unhealthy foods to children” by the food industry.
Research shows that in the United States, children are eating 200 more calories a day on average than they should. These extra calories convert to $20 billion a year for food companies.
The study concludes by saying that real change will depend on the public’s support to fighting exploitative food industries by pressuring the government to put in effect immediate and effective regulations.
Sources: Feb. 18, 2015. "Obesity experts call for stricter rules on junk food ads targeted at children" theguardian.com
Feb. 18, 2015. "Obesity is a health care 'time bomb,' warn Lancet authors" thestar.com
Feb. 19, 2015. "Short and fat the awful truth about what junk food is doing to our kids" news.com.au