March 15, 2024

‘Extremely alarming’ – Concern raised over global obesity increase amongst young people

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According to a report by the World Health Organization, over 800mn people struggle with obesity, and almost 2bn people are overweight. This means that approximately over 39% of the world's adult population weighs too much, and 13% of them are obese.

Picture by: Alan Light

In just over a decade, it is expected that a quarter of us will be living with obesity.

This follows ‘alarming’ global obesity rates which predict a 100% increase of childhood obesity between 2020 and 2035. Worldwide obesity rates have already increased by four times between 1990 and 2022.

According to a global analysis, the total number of people living with obesity today has already surpassed 1bn people. And these current trends, if not changed, will see the majority of the global population (over 4bn people) living with obesity or likely to be overweight by 2035.

“The increase in obesity is extremely alarming and risks setting back so many of the advances in medicine that we have benefited from in the last decades,” said Martin Mckee, Professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

Professor McKee added that it “points to something very wrong” within our food system as a result of a “growing reliance on the industrial production of energy dense foods.”

Obesity is a complex disease defined by excessive fat deposits that can impair health. It can lead to increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and problems with bone health and reproduction.

It is known impact quality of life with health consequences to sleeping and moving. Obese children are also likely to stay obese in adulthood which could lead to them developing non-communicable diseases at a younger age.

The reasons for people developing obesity are not fully understood yet, although there are numerous aspects that can increase the chance of someone developing obesity. Environmental, lifestyle preferences and cultural factors play pivotal roles in the ‘rising prevalence of obesity worldwide’.

According to the analysed data, COVID-19 has led to a significant increase in obesity of 45% in children aged 4-5 in the UK. This has been supposedly caused by the lack of physical activity during lockdowns as well as more processed food consumed. This equates to an extra 56,000 children living with obesity as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, which all have an increased risk of heart problems, arthritis and others, incurring additional healthcare costs of £800mn.

The World Obesity Federation remarked how ‘young people are never the cause of unhealthy and unsustainable environments’ but they often are those who suffer the consequences.

Speaking to CBS news about the increase in childhood obesity, Dr. Harry Banschick, a paediatrician at Holy Name in Teaneck, remarked how “it’s a very big problem now.”

Tackling global obesity

The World Obesity Federation, is just one example of a global charity organisation dedicated to addressing worldwide obesity concerns. The organisation  ‘support the definition of obesity as a chronic, relapsing disease’ and highlights that there is often an underestimated connection between obesity and other health conditions.

The organisation has been running the annual awareness campaign ‘World Obesity Day’ to help people recognise the root causes of obesity and its associated health risks.‘World Obesity Day’ with hundreds of global partners was held on March 4 this year, and highlighted the need to look at health, youth and the world around us ‘to see how we can address obesity together’ and to discuss the issue and influence policy to ‘embed obesity prevention and management in our food, infrastructure and healthcare systems, globally’.

Currently no European and Central Asia country is on track of meeting the target of halting rising levels of obesity by 2025, World Health Organisation (WHO) warns.

In terms of global results however, research by WHO has found that many countries are unfortunately still focused on changing the customers’ behaviours instead of addressing the ‘structural drivers’ of obesity and the social factors that impact it.

Though there are some countries which show improvement, the report highlighted examples of tackling obesity in Latin America, where there was ‘strong political commitment’ as well as support from the society.

In Europe the city of Amsterdam is a good example of long term policy to reduce obesity rates in children. Within three years of the Amsterdam Healthy Weight Approach starting in 2012, the city saw a 12% drop in childhood obesity.

Written by:

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Sofia Radysh

Science Section Editor

Animal welfare correspondent

Kyiv, Ukraine | London, United Kingdom

Born in 2005, Sofia lived in Kyiv, but now, because of the war, is a refugee in London. She is interested in animal welfare and how current events and social media impact the lives of our four-legged friends, and writes about this in Harbingers’ Magazine.

In 2022, she took over from Isaac Kadas as the second editor-in-chief of Harbingers’ Magazine.

In her free time, she does dog training and film-making. She likes getting out of her comfort zone and trying new things out.

Sofia speaks Ukrainian, English, Russian and a bit of German.

Edited by:

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Sofiya Tkachenko

former Editor-in-chief

Kyiv, Ukraine | Vienna, Austria

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