Children were facing crippling illnesses and shortened lives because of the spread of the heavily marketed fast-food culture, experts said, and health services around the world would struggle to cope. Junk food and sugary drinks are taking an enormous toll on children around the world, with soaring numbers who are obese and millions developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure previously seen only in adults, data has revealed. The experts said, the figures were an under-estimate.
More than 3.5 million children now had type 2 diabetes, which was once unknown in this age group and can lead to horrible complications in later life, such as amputations and blindness. The World Obesity Federation, which compiled the data, predicted that number would rise to 4.1 million by 2025. About 13.5 million children have impaired glucose tolerance, which is a precursor to diabetes. Around 24 million have high blood pressure and more than 33 million have fatty liver disease as a result of obesity, which is more often associated with alcoholism and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
In Egypt more than a third (35.5%_ of children aged five to 17 were overweight or obese in 2013 – Greece (31.4%), Saudi Arabia (30.5%), the United States (29.3%), Mexico (28.9%) and the UK (27.7%). By 2025, say the experts whose findings are published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, 49 million more children will be obese or overweight than in 2010, the year from which the UN said there should be no further increase in obesity - a total of 268 million worldwide. By then, 91 million of these children will be obese.
“We find that the large majority of children suffering excess bodyweight are in low- and middle-income countries. Following the recent evidence from the World Bank on the continuing high levels of stunting in children in underdeveloped regions of the world, it is obvious that something is severely wrong with the way our food supplies are developing,” said Tim Lobstein, policy director of the World Obesity Federation. “You cannot replace contaminated water with Coca-Cola or Chocolate Nesquik, or a lack of good meals with a pack of fortified noodles, and still expect children to grow healthily. Breastfeeding is rapidly giving way to infant formula in large areas of Asia where markets have tripled in value in a decade - an area where we have seen some of the most rapid increases in overweight and obesity.” He then continued, “Stunting and obesity are part of a continuum of poor nutrition, and can be found together in the same communities, the same families, and even the same individual children. Health is a key factor in sustainable development, and healthy food supplies are essential for economic development. Healthy food supplies are also a basic human right for this and the next generation.”
The President of the World Obesity Federation, Professor Ian Caterson, explained, “The obesity epidemic has reached virtually every country in the world, and overweight and obesity levels are continuing to rise in most places. Common risk factors, such as soft drink consumption and sedentary environments, have increased. Fast food advertising continues to really influence food choices and what is eaten, and increasing numbers of families live in urban environments without access to space to exercise or time to exercise.”