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WHO-Backed Panel says 40 Million Children under Five are Overweight, Obese

Update Date: Jan 25, 2016 11:37 AM EST

A panel commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported alarming numbers regarding childhood obesity.

According to the independent group, the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, there are currently 41 million children under the age of five who are either overweight or obese, which is a huge increase from the 31 million estimated in 1990.

The panel warned that these rates would continue to increase if nothing is done. They recommended "effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages" as well as stricter policies in schools that can boost healthy lifestyle habits, such as increasing physical activity and eating better, in young children. These polices, however, have to be adopted everywhere.

The experts added that if the number of overweight and obese children cannot be controlled effectively, "the obesity epidemic has the potential to negate many of the health benefits that have contributed to the increased longevity observed in the world."

"It's not the kids' fault. You can't blame a 2-year-old child for being fat and lazy and eating too much," co-chair Peter Gluckman said reported by the New York Times.

Gluckman and the other authors of the report stated that the overweight/obesity rates have increased over the past years due to biological factors, poor access to healthier food options, lower levels of exercise, especially in schools, and the failure to regulate foods that are high in bad fats and sugar.

Gluckman added, via Yahoo! News, the increasing rates represent "an exploding nightmare in the developing world."

From 1990 to 2014, the total number of overweight and obese children under five increased from 5.4 million to 10.3 million in Africa. In Asia, 48 percent of young kids can be classified as overweight or obese. Gluckman noted that calculating the increase in the rate of overweight and obese children from 1990 to 2014 in Asia was difficult.

In wealthier nations, such as the United States, children who were overweight or obese were generally from low-income families. In low-income nations, the trend was reversed.

Gluckman stressed, "We have responsibilities on behalf of the world's children to stop them from being overly obese."

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