It’s no secret that obesity – especially childhood obesity – is becoming a huge
problem in our nation and around the world (no pun intended). The First Lady has weighed in, and now the World Health Organization is speaking up, calling for a ban on junk food in settings such as schools and playgrounds.
The World Health Organization has added its voice to many others calling for the reduction of consumption of junk food and soft drinks by children. WHO points out that diets with large amounts of fat, sugar, and salt are major contributors to many of the chronic diseases that account for a high percentage of deaths worldwide.
“Childhood obesity is increasing globally now. The rate of increase in the developing world is greatest because of a rapid change in diet and physical activity patterns,” said Timothy Armstrong of the department of chronic disease and health promotion for WHO.
Defining “overweight” as just one category below obese, the WHO estimates that there are 42 million children under the age of five in this classification. Thirty-five million of these children are in developing countries.
The guidelines suggest that the risks from unhealthy diets in childhood will build up throughout these children’s lives. The WHO representative gave credit to the United States for drawing their attention to the problem. He said that because the US administration is addressing it as a major issue, global attention is changing.
Regina Benjamin, U. S. Surgeon-General praised WHO’s plan. “The set of recommendations on marketing of food and non-alcoholic beverages to children should play a significant role in helping member states promote healthier patterns of eating as part of efforts to reduce the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. . . . This is a priority for the Obama administration, in particular for the First Lady, who has raised awareness of childhood obesity and the important of healthy eating.”
WHO is recommending the limitation of children’s exposure to TV advertising as well as banning all marketing of junk food and sugary drinks in schools and on playgrounds. In 2004, a global strategy on diet and physical activity was adopted by WHO. This followed a treaty intended to control the sale and promotion of tobacco.
The Obesity Society (http://www.obesity.org/information/childhood_overweight.asp) reports that in the past 30 years, the number of overweight children has doubled in the U.S. The estimate now is that one in five children is overweight in this country. Certain populations are more prone to have overweight children but, even more ominous, the heaviest ones are getting even heavier. It’s the most common prevalent nutritional disorder of U.S. children and adolescents.
Negative Psychological Outcomes:*
- Depressive symptoms
- Poor body image
- Low self-concept
- Risk for Eating Disorders
Negative Health Consequences:*
- Insulin resistance
- Type 2 diabetes
- High Cholesterol
- Sleep Apnea
- Early puberty
- Orthopedic problems
*From the Obesity Society (http://www.obesity.org/information/childhood_overweight.asp).