Future looks sick for fat kids

Current estimates predict the number of obese school children in Europe will reach 6.4 million by the year 2010 if present trends continue.Current estimates predict the number of obese school children in Europe will reach 6.4 million by the year 2010 if present trends continue.

According to researchers the number who are obese has risen by almost 50 per cent since the late 1990s and the figures for overweight youngsters is expected to grow by 1.3 million a year to a total of 26 million across the EU in four years.

That equates to more than one-third of the child population, says the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO).

Dr Tim Lobstein, of the International Obesity TaskForce (IOTF), and his co-author Dr Youfa Wang from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, say in the report that the prevalence of childhood obesity is increasing in almost all industrialized countries for which data are available, and in several lower-income countries.

The health experts say childhood obesity rates are all set to soar dramatically in most parts of the world by the end of the decade which will in turn raise the risk of diabetes in young people.

An estimated 20,000 obese youngsters will have type 2 diabetes, a previously adult disease, by 2010 and the number of overweight and obese youngsters in the European Union is expected to hit the 26 million mark.

Over a million children will show signs of high blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels or early indicators for cardiovascular disease.

Dr Tim Lobstein used World Health Organization data and published research to estimate overweight and obesity prevalence levels for 2006 and 2010; the researchers believe urgent action is required to stop the rising trend, and say the estimates are very cautious, but extremely worrying.

Changes in diet, a decrease in physical activity and too much time spent in front of computer or television screens have been blamed for the growing number of overweight children worldwide.

Professor Philip James, chairman of the International Obesity Task Force, the research and advocacy arm of the IASO, says the problem is not confined to Europe.

He says North America, Europe and part of the Western Pacific have the highest prevalence of overweight children at about 20-30 percent.

The problem of obesity in schools has been described by the U.S. surgeon general as "every bit as threatening as the terrorist threat".

Lobstein says a reduction in the consumption of extra empty calories in high fat and high sugar good products, needs to be seriously addressed and much more must be done to improve children's opportunities to be active.

The findings are published in the first edition of the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity.

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