Childhood Obesity Rates Have Flattened in High-Income Countries

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The lowest mean child and adolescent BMIs in 2016 have increased in South Asia and East Africa.
The lowest mean child and adolescent BMIs in 2016 have increased in South Asia and East Africa.

Although parts of Asia have observed substantial increases in childhood obesity, many high-income countries have recently experienced a plateau in obesity in the pediatric population, according to a pooled analysis published in the Lancet.

Data from 2416 population-based studies were pooled to determine global trends in obesity in children and adolescents between 1975 and 2016. A total of 128.9 million patients were included in this analysis.

 

Northwestern Europe and the high-income English-speaking countries and the Asia-Pacific region experienced flattened trends in mean body mass index (BMI) during the study period. In contrast, the investigators observed climbing rates of childhood obesity in both East and South Asia. Overall, global childhood obesity prevalence increased from 0.7% in 1975 to 5.6% in 2016 for girls vs 0.9% in 1975 to 7.8% in 2016 for boys. In 2016, a total of 50 million girls and 74 million boys were found to be clinically obese.

Although this analysis featured a comprehensive overview of obesity rates to date, there were some countries included in this study that had fewer data sources compared with other countries. This limited data resulted in wider intervals of uncertainty in the childhood obesity estimates for these regions.

 

The investigators also found that the proportion of underweight children and adolescents was larger than the proportion of individuals who were obese, a finding which demonstrates “the continued need for policies that enhance food security in low-income countries and households” and highlights “the disconnect between the global dialogue on overweight and obesity, which has largely overlooked the remaining undernutrition burden.”

Reference

NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC). Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128·9 million children, adolescents, and adults [published online October 10, 2017]. Lancet.  doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32129-3

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