Global Obesity

global obesity

Global obesity is as much of an epidemic worldwide as it is in America. Internationally over 22 million children under the age of 5 are overweight. Developing countries have seen an increase in child obesity as they adapt to westernized lifestyles and behaviors. In some cases the child obesity rates have surpassed the rates in America which have doubled in the past few decades.

The increase in global obesity from early childhood to adolescents affects all racial and ethnic groups. Studies in the USA show that almost 8% of children between the ages of 4 and 5 are overweight. Global obesity in children affects girls more often than boys. As a matter of fact, over the past 20 years overweight and obese young girls has doubled while the increase in boys was less than 25%. Interestingly though, the same study showed that children over the age of 6 nearly doubled for both boys as well as girls. Additionally overweight was highest among Mexican American children followed by non-Hispanic black children and non-Hispanic white children.

In the United States alone the number of pre-school children that are considered overweight is almost 22% and those that are obese 10%. Those numbers are an increase since 1983 when the numbers were 18.6% and 8.5%.

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Facts And Figures

Industrialized countries are finding similar results with global obesity. In Japan, for instance, between 1974 and 1983 children between the ages of 6 and 14 have seen an increase in obesity from 5% to 10%. Developing countries' obesity rates are also rising steadily and in some instances so are the malnourished rates.

For example: Northern Africa's child obesity rate is in excess of 8% and malnourished over 7%, South America, which historically was known for malnourished and underweight, now reports almost 5% of pre-school children as overweight and malnourished only 1.8%, Eastern Asia pre-school children overweight 4.3% and malnourished 3.4%.

Child obesity rates in some countries have surpassed those of the United States such as: Argentina, Egypt, Jamaica, Malawi, Nigeria, Peru, Qatar, Uzbekistan, and South Africa. It seems clear that global obesity in children is no longer a Western issue. It's now found in all industrialized countries and some developing countries.

Case in point: Seychelles ( a middle income island state in the Indian Ocean), which is in a rapid economic growth, reports 13.5% of boys and 18.6% of girls as overweight and 5.2% of boys and 6.2% of girls as obese. These figures on Seychelles are as high or higher than those in some industrialized countries.

Developing countries are realizing the need to adjust their public health priorities in order to combat childhood obesity. There is a need for programs and policies aimed at promoting physical activity and healthy nutrition in countries in economic transition.



Who is to blame for the westernization of global obesity? Some would like to blame McDonald's. Ever since they opened their first restaurant outside of the U.S. Borders (1967 Canada) child obesity rates have increased. It was only a few years later that they made their way to the United Kingdom and Japan.

Fast food is one of the causes of global obesity. Modernized inventions; such as computers and video games , and their popularity have contributed to sedentary lifestyles. Of course, the combination is a perfect recipe for weight gain. Parents must take responsibility by setting a good example and promoting a healthier environment.

The following table shows the global obesity estimates for men and women aged 15 and older who have a Body Mass Index of over (>30) as of 2005.

Country Age % (males) % (females)
Albania 15+ 18.6 23.8
Andorra 15+ 15.8 28.8
Antiqua and Barbuda 15+ 11.2 15+
Azerbaijan 15+ 15.4 24.9
Argentina 15+ 31.4 31.0
Australia 15+ 23.8 24.9
Austria 15+ 21.3 20.3
Bahamas 15+ 14.7 27.1
Bahrain 15+ 21.2 35.2
Barbados 15+ 16.8 50.8
Bolivia 15+ 14.7 33.1
Bosnia and Herzegovina 15+ 13.8 21.5
Brunei Darussalam 15+ 15.2 27.4
Belarus 15+ 16.2 32.2
Canada 15+ 23.7 23.2
Chile 15+ 19.0 31.6
Cook Islands 15+ 69.5 70.8
Costa Rica 15+ 13.0 24.2
Cuba 15+ 14.9 24.6
Cyprus 15+ 10.1 22.2
Czech Republic 15+ 18.5 20.7
Dominica 15+ 20.0 46.0
Dominican Republic 15+ 7.7 31.8
El Salvador 15+ 7.4 23.3
Fiji 15+ 8.7 32.5
Germany 15+ 20.9 20.4
Greece 15+ 27.7 24.5
Grenada 15+ 9.8 21.2
Guatemala 15+ 15.7 29.7
Iceland 15+ 16.7 23.2
Iran 15+ 12.7 27.0
Israel 15+ 16.2 24.3
Kiribati 15+ 29.8 41.0
Jordan 15+ 19.6 35.6
Kuwait 15+ 29.6 52.9
Lebanon 15+ 14.9 25.2
Lesotho 15+ 1.9 34.3
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya 15+ 11.4 22.5
Maldives 15+ 5.7 22.0
Malta 15+ 25.9 34.8
Mauritania 15+ 3.7 22.9
Mexico 15+ 24.0 34.3
Micronesia 15+ 66.2 72.9
Monaco 15+ 14.5 27.5
Mongolia 15+ 7.9 29.0
Morocco 15+ 3.7 20.5
Nauru 15+ 83.2 78.8
New Zealeand 15+ 23.0 31.5
Nicaragua 15+ 11.5 34.3
Palau 15+ 29.3 55.0
Peru 15+ 17.5 31.1
Qatar 15+ 17.4 29.3
Russian Federation 15+ 9.6 23.6
Saint Kitts and Nevis 15+ 11.6 23.4
Saint Lucia 15+ 6.6 34.7
San Marino 15+ 14.3 27.2
Saudia Arabia 15+ 23.0 33.8
Seychelles 15+ 16.7 38.6
Slovakia 15+ 10.8 22.8
South Africa 15+ 6.7 35.2
Syrian Arab Republic 15+ 11.2 22.2
Tonga 15+ 60.7 76.1
Trinidad and Tobago 15+ 14.0 46.1
Tunisia 15+ 7.7 30.2
Turkey 15+ 10.8 32.5
Tuvalu 15+ 11.9 23.8
United Arab Emirates 15+ 24.5 39.4
United Kingdom 15+ 18.7 21.3
United States 15+ 32.0 37.8
Vanuatu 15+ 11.9 23.4
Venezuela 15+ 19.7 22.4

The table above suggests two key points. Obese children have a high percentage rate of becoming obese adults and women are more susceptible to weight gain.

Global obesity is an epidemic that has serious personal and societal consequences. Parents, governments, and local communities must take responsibility for identifying the problems.



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