Obesity rates are higher in adults than in children. But in relative terms, the U.S., Brazil, China, and other countries have seen the problem escalate more rapidly in children than in adults.
Of course, some regions still struggle mightily with child hunger, such as Southeastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. (5, 6) But globalization has made the world wealthier, and wealth and weight are linked.
As poor countries move up the income scale and switch from traditional diets to Western food ways, obesity rates rise. (7) One result of this so-called “nutrition transition” is that low- and middle-income countries often face a dual burden: the infectious diseases that accompany malnutrition, especially in childhood, and, increasingly, the debilitating chronic diseases linked to obesity and Western lifestyles.
It’s surprisingly challenging to track childhood obesity rates across the globe. Many countries do not field nationally representative surveys that measure heights and weights of school-aged children, or don’t have repeated consistent measurements over time. Dueling definitions of childhood obesity—from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF)—further complicate matters, making it hard to compare data between regions.
Source of this Article: Harvard University
5. Popkin BM, Conde W, Hou N, Monteiro C. Is there a lag globally in overweight trends for children compared with adults? Obesity (Silver Spring). 2006;14:1846-53.
6. United Nations. Childinfo.org: Statistics by area / child nutrition / undernutrition / progress. 2012. Accessed March 6, 2012.
7. Popkin BM, Adair LS, Ng SW. Global nutrition transition and the pandemic of obesity in developing countries. Nutr Rev. 2012;70:3-21.