There’s been a shocking surge in the number of obese children

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Source: Market Watch Personal Finance

More children and adolescents — 11 times more, to be exact — are likely to suffer from obesity around the world than they were four decades ago. East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, south Asia and high-income English-speaking regions had the largest absolute increases in the number of children and adolescents with obesity, new research published in medical journal the Lancet found. The researchers looked at more than 2,400 population-based studies from last year covering almost 129 million people ages 5 and up.

Here’s what they found:

• The number of obese girls increased 50 million versus 5 million in 1975

• The number of boys with obesity rose to 74 million versus 6 million since 1975

• The number of obese men increased to 281 million versus 31 million in 1975

• The number of women with obesity rose to 390 million versus 69 million in 1975.

Worldwide, another 213 million children and adolescents and 1.3 billion adults were considered overweight, the level below obesity, Lancet found. Obesity can be caused by various factors, including genetics, metabolism, eating and physical activity and, of course, the environment. Ultimately, however, simply consuming more calories than the body actually needs to function is often the cause, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also see: 5 ways schools can get kids to eat vegetables

More than 38% of the country’s adults (aged 15 and over) are obese, according to a self-reported survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, making it the country with the highest percentage of obesity. Mexico came in second, right above New Zealand. The country with the lowest obesity rates were Japan, followed by Korea and Italy.

How do you define obesity?

Children with a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile have obesity, according to the CDC. BMI for children takes into consideration the fact that they are still growing, as well as their height, age and sex. The U.S. has made efforts to tackle the obesity epidemic. Former First Lady Michelle Obama targeted childhood obesity in one of her campaigns, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture revamped its food pyramid and now offers more dietary guidelines online.

See: 6 real culprits that are making American kids fat

What are the health implications of childhood obesity?

Obese children are at higher risk for other chronic health conditions, such as asthma, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. They may also develop hypertension, early puberty, high levels of cholesterol and insulin resistance, according to Obesity.org. Children can also be bullied for their weight, and may suffer depression and low self-esteem. Children with obesity are likely to become adults with obesity, as well, according to the CDC.

What can Americans do to prevent, or resolve, obesity?

Parents should strike a balance. Researchers believe excess parental control over what their children eat could actually lead to poor eating decisions by children. No one should skip meals in an attempt to lose weight, nor should they have diets with a high intake of calories while ignoring fruits and vegetables, according to Obesity.org. Parents with obesity are likely to have children who suffer with obesity due to both genetics and following the same eating habits.

Source: Market Watch Personal Finance