Why We Are In The Grip Of A Childhood Obesity Epidemic?


With child poverty rates rising at an alarming rate all over the world, why is it that a growing number of children are becoming clinically obese?

Childhood obesity worldwide

Obesity in the USA has tripled since the 1970’s with a whopping 30% of all kids being overweight or obese.

The UK is the second most obese country in Europe with:

  • 19.1% of children in Year 6 (aged 10-11) are obese and a further 14.2% are overweight.

  • Of children in Reception (aged 4-5), 9.1% are obese and another 12.8% are overweight.

  • This means a third of 10-11-year-olds and over a fifth of 4-5-year-olds are overweight or obese

  • Obesity prevalence for children living in the most deprived areas is double that of those living in the least deprived areas.

  • The obesity prevalence among reception year children living in the most deprived areas was 12.0 per cent compared with 5.7 per cent among those living in the least deprived areas.

And across Europe and the Rest of the world:

  • Overweight and obese children in Germany has doubled in recent years.

  • Greece, Italy, New Zealand and Slovenia all have higher rates of children being overweight or obese than in the USA.

  • France has the lowest rate of obesity with just 15%

  • The number of overweight or obese infants and young children (aged 0 to 5 years) increased from 32 million globally in 1990 to 42 million in 2013. In the WHO African Region alone the number of overweight or obese children increased from 4 to 9 million over the same period.

  • If current trends continue the number of overweight or obese infants and young children globally will increase to 70 million by 2025.

Since the late 70’s the food industry has changed significantly. The promotion and availability of junk food have increased exponentially with the introduction of chemicals that prolong the shelf life of food.

Whilst at the time it seemed like a break through, its seemingly had a knock-on effect on waist lines.

If we look at what these foods contain the scary facts are revealed. CHEMICALS and lots of them, chemicals that most struggle to pronounce. With the huge production of these items the cost per items is reduced and often costs less than a healthier counterpart.

Poverty dictates what a family can afford to eat, and sadly the percentage of those overweight or obese increases with income. The lower the income the higher the rates of obesity.

Fresh fruit and vegetables and home cooked meals become hard to afford so cheaper alternatives are opted for. Or worse removed in place of chemical filled cheap ready meals and other ‘fillers’ such as highly processed breads marketed as ‘healthy’.

How the body deals with unwanted chemicals in food?

Well, they just don’t know what to do with them and rather than be excreted as you would hope, many are stored in fat cells. The shocking fact is highly processed foods:

  • Are Usually High in Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup

  • Are “Hyper Rewarding” and Lead to Overconsumption

  • Are Foods Contain All Sorts of Artificial Ingredients

  • Are Literally Addictive

  • Are Often High in Refined Carbohydrates

  • Are Mostly Foods Low in Nutrients

  • Are Mostly Low in Fibre

  • Are More Likely To Be Stored As Fat

  • Requires Less Energy and Time to Digest Processed Foods

  • Are Often High in Trans Fats or Processed Vegetable Oils

Not all calories are the same

A banana contains around 100 calories, a bananas costs roughly 10p each and go out of date within 2/3 days. Compare that with a cake or bag of crisps that can be bought for 50% less (even more if you buy from online stores that offer hugely discounted foods that are close to or past sell-by dates or are bought through coupons) per item.

The parent gets more for their money whilst keeping the child seemingly happy with a ‘tastier’ alternative. But with double the calories and very little nutritional value, heaped with chemicals, the ‘tastier and cheaper’ alternative, is over consumed and over a period of time leads to weight gain. Where-as the banana is filling, processed well in the body and is used and not stored by the body.

Those in poverty are not just at risk

For the rest of the nation who are not in a circle of poverty, we are still being tricked into eating foods that are marketed as ‘healthy’, specifically aimed at kids but again are all highly processed and chemical laden. Don’t be fooled by clever marketing, and as a rule if it has more than 5 ingredients or you can’t pronounce the names, best steer clear!

Foods like bread, soy milk, and margarine are marketed as ‘healthy’ but are loaded with sugar, salt and chemicals.

Low sugar squash has numerous colours and flavourings that are even linked to cancer, yet we freely allow our children to consume them without guilt. Yet sugar is demonised?

One thing is clear, this epidemic isn’t going away any time soon, with 70 million kids likely to be obese by 2020 there needs to be a dramatic intervention to our lifestyle and diets to stop this happening, marketing needs to be looked at and a reduction in the allowance of advertisers targeting families with substandard foods under the guise of being a ‘healthy’ option with poverty being addressed too.

Sources: Public Health England, CDC, National health and Nutrition survey, WHO
Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Overweight_Teen.jpg

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