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Obesity in Children
Excess Body Fat and Weight in Younger Children
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Obesity in Children

Excess Body Weight & Children
Excess body weight is now the commonest childhood disorder in Europe and North America and is rapidly becoming a major concern in other regions of the world. In some areas the problem of excess weight now affects one child in three. Among very young children, under age 5, an estimated 22 million are overweight.

Excess Body Weight Measurement & Children
Measurement methods differ across countries and from period to period even within countries. Nonetheless it is possible to make comparisons using a standardized method of assessment: in Europe, for example, this shows the highest levels of excess weight among children in southern Europe (Greece, Italy, Spain).
Where comparable measurements have been used over a period of time, trends in childhood obesity rates can be shown and these indicate a rapid rise in prevalence since the mid 1980s: in Europe the prevalence of excess weight has risen from typically around 10 percent in the early 1980s to around 20 percent in the later 1990s.
As may be expected, other regions of the world show a wide range of prevalence rates. Surveys of younger children, under age 5, show some developing countries to have rates of excess weight below 5 percent but many to have rates as high as 25 percent and more.

Obesity Rates & Children USA
Data from the USA suggests that obesity rates are rising faster among some ethnic groups than among others: the prevalence of excess weight among Hispanic children has risen to nearly 40 percent compared with 25 percent among US whites.

Genes & Obesity in Children
Although genetic factors may predispose an individual to becoming overweight, genetic factors alone cannot explain the current childhood epidemic: the numbers have risen rapidly within one generation, and they have risen in stable population groups. Children are at greater risk of gaining weight if their parents are overweight, and if they are in a low income household.

Obesogenic Environment
IOTF is working to develop a coherent picture of the 'obesogenic environment' for children - the familial, social, cultural and educational influences on children's diet and exercise patterns - and to assist the development of guidelines for the assessment, management and prevention of this emerging epidemic.

Childhood Obesity Group
At European level, IOTF is working with the European Childhood Obesity Group within the European Association for the Study of Obesity, and is calling for the European Commission to address childhood obesity in its forthcoming action plan on nutrition. It is also pressing the European Commission to include childhood obesity among the relevant topics within the new Framework Program on Public Health (2003-2008) which is open to researchers in EU member states and accession countries. Lastly, IOTF is working with the European Regional Office of the World Health Organization to include childhood obesity issues within the WHO's regional 5-year Action Plan on Food and Nutrition aimed at developing sound food and health policies in all member countries.

Source: Dr Tim Lobstein, International Obesity TaskForce, North Gower Street, London, NW1 2NS, UK.

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