Earlier this week, Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed a study that showed how childhood and adolescent obesity rates are drastically increasing.

With nearly 130 million participants aged between five and 19, the largest number of obese children appeared in East Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and high-income English-speaking countries.

"These data highlight, remind and reinforce that overweight and obesity is a global health crisis today, and threatens to worsen in coming years unless we start taking drastic action," said programme coordinator for surveillance and population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) at WHO, Dr. Fiona Bull.

Jordan, obesity, obese kids, children
Jordanian Tuqa Waleed, 140 kg at age 10 (to the right) Source: alarabiya

According to the lead author of the study, Professor Majid Ezzati, obesity rates in children and adolescents have "soared globally" over the past four decades.

This epidemic is mainly caused by the "impact of food marketing and policies across the globe" and the costliness of healthy nutritious foods in poor communities.

If such numbers will keep on increasing, more children and adolescents will be obese than moderately or severely underweight by 2022.

chart, the lancet, WHO, Imperial, child obesity
Source: the lancet

Comparing the number of obese kids aged five to 19 in 2016 to those in 1975, WHO confirmed that obesity has risen more than tenfold globally. 

Figures have soared from less than 1% of obese kids in 1975 for both girls and boys to 6% for girls and 8% for boys in 2016. This accounts for a global shift from 11 million obese children to 124 million in less than 41 years

As for high-income countries, obesity rates have stabilized in recent years, however, they remain "unacceptably high."

"The trend predicts a generation of children and adolescents growing up obese and also malnourished. We need ways to make healthy, nutritious food more available at home and school," Ezzati said.

Dr. Bull explained that in order to reduce child and adolescent obesity, countries should aim "to reduce consumption of cheap, ultra-processed, calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods."

Overall, 2 billion people are now overweight worldwide.