Obesity Quadruples Among Kids and Teens Since 1990s

More than 1 billion worldwide are obese and obesity is now the most common form of malnutrition in many countries, according to a new study published in the Lancet.

Researchers used data from thousands of studies involving more than 220 million people in almost 200 countries, the Guardian reports.

They found that the obesity rate among children and adolescents quadrupled between 1990 and 2022. Among adults, the rate more than doubled for men and almost tripled for women.

The highest rates of obesity were in Pacific island nations, including Tonga, where 81% of women and 63% of men are obese.

The US has the 10th highest obesity rate for men and the 36th highest for women, researchers say.

“In many of these island nations it comes down to the availability of healthy food versus unhealthy food,” senior researcher Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London tells the BBC. “In some cases there have been aggressive marketing campaigns promoting unhealthy foods, while the cost and availability of healthier food can be more problematic.”

The proportion of adults who are underweight has halved since 1990, researchers say, though it is still a major problem in countries including Eritrea, where around a third of adults are underweight.

  • Ezzati said it was “very concerning” that the obesity epidemic that caused concern for adults decades ago has spread to children and teens in so much of the world, the Guardian reports. “At the same time, hundreds of millions are still affected by undernutrition, particularly in some of the poorest parts of the world,” he said. “To successfully tackle both forms of malnutrition it is vital we significantly improve the availability and affordability of healthy, nutritious foods.”
  • “This new study highlights the importance of preventing and managing obesity from early life to adulthood, through diet, physical activity, and adequate care, as needed,” said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus.
  • “The impact of issues such as climate change, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine risk worsening both rates of obesity and underweight, by increasing poverty and the cost of nutrient-rich foods,” said study co-author Guha Pradeepa of the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation. “The knock-on effects of this are insufficient food in some countries and households, and shifts to less healthy food in others.”

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