Child obesity a global health issue, according to WHO

Published: Thursday, June 6 2013 9:50 p.m. MDT

The World Health Organization has issued new recommendations for helping overweight children — more than 75 percent of whom live in developing countries, sometimes side-by-side with malnutrition.

Matt Slocum, AP

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The World Health Organization has issued new recommendations for helping overweight children — more than 75 percent of whom live in developing countries, sometimes side-by-side with malnutrition.

Both conditions can stem from malnutrition, according to a WHO press release issued Wednesday.

"These conditions — undernutrition, obesity and overweight — are forms of malnutrition with their causes and consequences closely linked to inadequacies in the food system," according to the press release. "A food system that does not deliver a sufficient amount of quality food can lead both to poor growth and to excess weight gain."

The WHO estimates the number of overweight children younger than five is more than 42 million. Close to 35 million live in developing countries. The number of overweight children in Africa has almost doubled in the past 20 years.

The International Obesity Taskforce (IASO) used 2010 data to map obese children worldwide.

Global overweight and obesity, or "globesity," is quickly becoming a "major public health problem," according to the WHO website.

"Paradoxically coexisting with undernutrition in developing countries, the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity is associated with many diet-related chronic diseases including diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension and certain cancers," the website reads.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation lists some surprising hotspots for obesity and weight-related problems, including Brazil, where more than 50 percent of adults are overweight and obese, and Mexico, which drinks more carbonated beverages per head than any other country — an example of how price and infrastructure can affect health and weight.

"In a country where running water isn't guaranteed and bottled water is expensive, these soft drinks have become a daily dietary staple for everyone from infants to the elderly," ABC wrote.

WHO's 24 "Essential Nutrition Actions" include improving nutrition for pregnant and breastfeeding women, encouraging breastfeeding, promoting proper solid foods for young children and providing micronutrient supplements and fortified foods if needed.

"To avoid a massive explosion of nutrition problems in the next generation, policymakers urgently need to give more attention to improving the nutritional status of pregnant women and adolescent girls who will become mothers of the next generation,” said Dr. Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development.

EMAIL: kbennion@deseretnews.com

TWITTER: @katebennion

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