World Health Organization report: Child and teen obesity soars tenfold worldwide in 40 years

Child obesity has grown tenfold since 1975 Study

The study reports that the number of obese children has increased more than tenfold in the past four decades - from 5 million girls in 1975 to 50 million in 2016, and from 6 million boys in 1975 to 74 million in 2016.

Put another way, there were only 11 million obese kids and teens around the world in 1975. Green and blue means fewer than 5% of the young population is obese Image copyright NCD Risk Factor Collaboration Image caption The highest rates of obesity are shown in red, followed by orange and yellow.

Most highly developed countries have a significant percentage of overweight children, but the same trend is accelerating in middle-income countries, especially in Southeast Asia.

Current rates of childhood obesity are highest among many Polynesian islands, the US, and many countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Now, globally, 5.6 per cent of girls and 7.8 per cent of boys are classed as obese.

USA obesity prevalence rates for boys and girls compared to the world average.

The percentage of boys and girls who are underweight correlates with poverty. Overall, 9.9 per cent of Canadian girls are obese, as are 14.7 per cent of boys.

The study was published online Tuesday in the journal Lancet.

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If current trends continue, though, the number of children and adolescents who are obese would surpass the number of underweight children and adolescents by 2022.

Study author Dr James Bentham, from the University of Kent, said: "This is not an excuse for complacency as more than one in five young people in the US and one in 10 in the United Kingdom are obese".

Obesity rates have stabilised in high-income countries in recent years, though levels remain unacceptably high, Ezzati added. Nearly two-thirds of these children live in South Asia, where some governments' ability to feed their citizens has been unable to keep up with countries' booming populations.

"At the same time, healthier options, fresh foods, are priced out of reach of the poorest people round the world", he said.

"Children are not getting physical activity in the school days, there is poor food opportunities in many schools, walking and cycling to school is going down in many countries, unsafe in many other countries, and parents are not being given the right, sufficient advice on nutrition", said Fiona Bull of WHO's department of non-communicable diseases. The study has led researchers to conclude that the problem has less to do with individual choices and more to do with a child's cultural environment.

While being overweight is associated with earlier onset of cardiac and metabolic issues and some cancers, being underweight also can carry serious consequences.

Over the next eight years, the USA is set to spend $4.2 trillion on treating obesity-related disease, Germany will spend $390 billion, Brazil $251 billion and the United Kingdom $237 billion if these countries do not do more to try to prevent it, the Guardian quoted the federation as saying.