Child obesity grows tenfold since 1975: study

An overweight child wears a sweat-shirt reading the word "Style", in this October 9, 2017 photo, in Postdam, eastern Germany. (AFP)
Updated 11 October 2017

Child obesity grows tenfold since 1975: study

PARIS: The world had 10 times as many obese children and teenagers last year than in 1975, but underweight kids still outnumbered them, a study said Wednesday.
Warning of a “double burden” of malnutrition, researchers said the rate of increase in obesity far outstripped the decline in under-nutrition.
“If post-2000 trends continue, child and adolescent obesity is expected to surpass moderate and severe underweight by 2022,” researchers wrote in The Lancet medical journal.
The team found that there were 74 million obese boys aged 5-19 in 2016, up from six million four decades earlier.
For girls, the tally swelled from five million to 50 million.
By comparison, there were 117 million underweight boys and 75 million underweight girls last year after the number peaked around the year 2000, the study said.
Almost two thirds of the underweight children lived in south Asia.
Obesity ballooned in every region in the world, while the number of underweight children slowly decreased everywhere except south and southeast Asia, and central, east and west Africa.
The prevalence of underweight children decreased from 9.2 percent to 8.4 percent of girls aged 5-19 over the study period, and from 14.8 percent to 12.4 percent in boys.
Obesity grew from 0.7 percent to 5.6 percent among girls and from 0.9 percent to 7.8 percent in boys.
In Nauru, the Cook Islands and Palau, more than 30 percent of children and teenagers were obese in 2016.
In some countries in Polynesia and Micronesia, the Middle East, North Africa, the Caribbean and the United States, more than one in five children were obese.

Experts divide people into body mass categories calculated on the basis of their weight-to-height ratio. These range from underweight, normal weight, overweight and three categories of obese.
Obesity comes with the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, while underweight children are more at risk from infectious diseases.
Children in either category can be stunted if their diet does not include healthy nutrients.
“There is a continued need for policies that enhance food security in low-income countries and households, especially in south Asia,” said study author Majid Ezzati from Imperial College London.
“But our data also shows that the transition from underweight to overweight and obesity can happen quickly in an unhealthy nutritional transition with an increase in nutrient-poor, energy-dense foods.”
The team used the height and weight data of 129 million people older than five to estimate body mass trends for 200 countries from 1975 to 2016.
While obesity in children and teens appears to have plateaued in rich countries, its rise continued in low- and middle-income countries, they found.
“Very few policies and programs attempt to make healthy foods such as whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables affordable to poor families,” Ezzati said in a statement.
“Unaffordability of healthy food options to the poor can lead to social inequalities in obesity, and limit how much we can reduce its burden.”
 


Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk — World Health Organization

Updated 29 min 42 sec ago

Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk — World Health Organization

  • WHO issues first report on microplastics in drinking water
  • Reassures consumers that risk is low, but says more study needed
GENEVA: Microplastics contained in drinking water pose a “low” risk to human health at current levels, but more research is needed to reassure consumers, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
Studies over the past year on plastic particles detected in tap and bottled water have sparked public concerns but the limited data appears reassuring, the UN agency said its first report on potential health risks associated with ingestion.
Microplastics enter drinking water sources mainly through run-off and wastewater effluent, the WHO said. Evidence shows that microplastics found in some bottled water seem to be at least partly due to the bottling process and/or packaging such as plastic caps, it said.
“The headline message is to reassure drinking water consumers around the world, that based on this assessment, our assessment of the risk is that it is low,” Bruce Gordon of the WHO’s department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health, told a briefing.
The WHO did not recommended routine monitoring for microplastics in drinking water. But research should focus on issues including what happens to chemical additives in the particles once they enter the gastrointestinal tract, it said.
The majority of plastic particles in water are larger than 150 micrometers in diameter and are excreted from the body, while “smaller particles are more likely to cross the gut wall and reach other tissues,” it said.
Health concerns have centered around smaller particles, said Jennifer De France, a WHO technical expert and one of the report’s authors.
“For these smallest size particles, where there is really limited evidence, we need know more about what is being absorbed, the distribution and their impacts,” she said.
More research is needed into risks from microplastics exposure throughout the environment — “in our drinking water, air and food,” she added.
Alice Horton, a microplastics researcher at Britain’s National Oceanography Center, said in a statement on the WHO’s findings: “There are no data available to show that microplastics pose a hazard to human health, however this does not necessarily mean that they are harmless.”
“It is important to put concerns about exposure to microplastics from drinking water into context: we are widely exposed to microplastics in our daily lives via a wide number of sources, of which drinking water is just one.”
Plastic pollution is so widespread in the environment that you may be ingesting five grams a week, the equivalent of eating a credit card, a study commissioned by the environmental charity WWF International said in June. That study said the largest source of plastic ingestion was drinking water, but another major source was shellfish.
The biggest overall health threat in water is from microbial pathogens — including from human and livestock waste entering water sources — that cause deadly diarrheal disease, especially in poor countries lacking water treatment systems, the WHO said.
Some 2 billion people drink water contaminated with faeces, causing nearly 1 million deaths annually, Gordon said, adding: “That has got to be the focus of regulators around the world.”