WHO Warns Against Overweight Becoming ‘New Norm’

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Written by Veronika Bradley, Editor for Children’s Health and Safety Association – March 6, 2014 and Republished by Diligencia Investigative Reporting – May 2019

A detailed analysis completed by the World Health Organization (WHO) on obesity levels in 53 countries across Europe shows that 1 in 3 eleven-year-old children is overweight or obese due to lack of exercise and the ever present marketing of unhealthy foods that are consistently high in fat, sugar and salt. 

“Our perception of what is normal has shifted.  Being overweight is now more common than unusual,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, Regional Director for the WHO.

WHO recommends that national governments take responsibility by enforcing legislation within the food industry and insisting on food labelling, nutrient profiling and regulated marketing.

The steady influx of fast food chains and junk food combined with a sedentary lifestyle has caused childhood obesity to reach epidemic proportions in Canada and around the world. Children's muscles atrophy after a period of neglect and manifest the onset of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, mental disorders, orthopaedic troubles, poor academic ratings as well as low self-esteem.

 Statistics

  • Greece at 33%, Portugal at 32% and Ireland and Spain at 30% had the highest percentages for overweight children.
  • Over 30% of boys and girls aged 15 and over in 23 out of 36 countries are not getting enough exercise.
  • The ratings for adult women with poor physical activity span from Greece at 16% to 71% in Malta and 76% in Serbia.
  • France, Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands promote healthy food consumption and physical activities at home as well as at school, and are continually finding ways to reduce their obesity ratings.
  • According to statistical findings most people are overweight or obese in Britain – 61.9% of adults and 28% of children between the ages of two and fifteen. The UK National Diet and National Survey indicates that the consumption of the non-milk extrinsic sugars exceed the recommended level for all age groups, most notably for youth in the age group of 11 to 18.
  • Over 60% of children who are overweight before puberty will be overweight as young adults and 3 to 7 times more likely to be overweight adults.

Joao Breda, an expert on nutrition, physical activity and obesity with the WHO said, “We need to create environments where physical activity is encouraged and the healthy food choice is the default choice, regardless of social group.”

“Physical activity and healthy food choices should be taken very seriously in all environments – schools, hospitals, cities, towns and workplaces…the food industry and the urban planning sector can make a difference.”

WHO states that childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century.  Statistics show that in 2010, 42 million children under the age of five are overweight and/or obese and close to 35 million of those children live in developing countries.

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