WHO: Obesity in Children Below Five 'Alarming'; 40 Million Kids Overweight

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Jan 26, 2016 06:00 AM EST

BEIJING, CHINA - JULY 16: Tears run down the cheeks of an overweight Chinese student as he uses weights during training at a camp held for overweight children at a local university on July 16, 2014 in Beijing, China. Obesity is a growing problem amongst the burgeoning middle-class in China, and recent studies show that the country is now the second fattest in the world behind the United States. Many parents send their children to special summer camps in an effort to get them into shape and prepare them for the hectic challenges of life in one of the world's largest economies. (Photo : Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The World Health Organization (WHO) is speaking up about the "alarming" number of obese children below five years old, which is reported to be at 41 million, the Associated Press reports.

According to the news outlet, WHO tapped the Commission for Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) to make a report about the growing number of overweight and obese children.

According to ECHO's report, as per Reuters, the number of obese kids in low- and middle-income countries is higher than high-income countries. In 2014, the number of obese children inflated in a span of 24 years from 7.5 million (1990) to 15.5 million (2014). ECHO also identified Asia as the region that has over 50 percent of overweight kids while 25 percent goes to Africa, where Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Botswana have the highest percentage. Africa's number of overweight kids experienced a sharp increase from 5.4 million (1990) to 10.3 million (2014).

Tagged as an "exploding nightmare," per Voice of America, ECHO points out that the reasons for this shoot-up are biological factors, sedentary lifestyle, high-fat food available in the market and lack of healthy food.

"The marketing of unhealthy food and drinks was the major factor in the increase in numbers of overweight and obese children, particularly in the developing world," WHO said as quoted by Reuters.

However, Commission Co-Chair Peter Gluckman explains that children should not be blamed if they are overweight. "It is not the kids' fault. You can not blame a two-year-old child for being fat and lazy and eating too much," he said as quoted by Voice of America.

Meanwhile, Reuters notes that kids who are not able to consume a regular healthy diet during their childhood are more prone to obesity when their eating habits change, especially among migrant kids. A recent study reported by Latinos Health showed that Latino kids living in the U.S. are more prone to become obese as they tend to adapt to the American diet to fit in with their peers.

Echo Co-Chair Sania Nishtar added per Reuters, "Overweight and obesity impact on a child’s quality of life, as they face a wide range of barriers, including physical, psychological and health consequences."

Based on ECHO’s report, WHO is urging governments, educators, businesses and food retailers to join the fight against childhood obesity. ECHO says that the issue to solve obesity has been "slow and inconsistent" and recommends healthy eating, exercise and "effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages."

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