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health crisis

Record-setting obesity study sets off alarm bells for World Health Organization

The number of obese children and adolescents in the world will overcome the number of underweight children by 2022, a recently released study by the World Health Organization and the Imperial College of London revealed.

The global study focused on how obesity rates have changed between 1975 and 2016. To better understand obesity worldwide, researchers measured the body mass index of over 130 million participants between the ages of 5 and 19; no other study has examined that many participants.

If researchers were to combine the number of obese boys and girls worldwide in 1975, they would come up with about 11 million kids. That number has increased tenfold since 1975: In 2016, researchers determined that around 124 million boys and girls worldwide meet the qualifications for obesity. On top of that, 213 million more kids between the ages of 5 and 19 can be considered overweight, though they do not cross the numerical threshold into obesity.

The lead author of the study, Imperial College of London professor Majid Ezzati, explained that the numbers could have economic roots: "These worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe, with healthy nutritious foods too expensive for poor families and communities," he said. "The trend predicts a generation of children and adolescents growing up obese and at greater risk of diseases, like diabetes."

Read the full study in The Lancet.