WHO: Tenfold Increase in Childhood Obesity Within Past 4 Decades

The number of obese children and adolescents around the world has risen tenfold in the past four decades, according to new research from the World Health Organization.

The study found if current trends continue, more children and adolescents will be obese than moderately or severely underweight by 2022. According to the study, in many middle-income countries -- including East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean -- children and adolescents have “rapidly transitioned from mostly underweight to mostly overweight.” Study authors say that could be due to an increase in the consumption of energy-dense foods, especially processed carbohydrates. The U.S. has the highest obesity rates for boys and girls among high-income countries.

WHO suggests countries reduce consumption of ultra-processed, calorie dense foods that lack nutrients. At the same time, countries should reduce children screen-time and instead encourage physical activities.