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The Short & Fat Truth

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The Short & Fat Truth  – Junk Food Stunts The Growth of Children

The World Obesity Federation has found many children are shorter than normal but weigh more than they should even in first world countries like England.

The study published in The Lancet medical journal says poor diet and lack of exercise is to blame for the stunting.

The obesity researchers stumbled across the problem when they found children who had Body Mass Index measurements that indicated they were overweight or obese even though they actually had low body weight for their age.

“An apparent increase in prevalence of apparent overweight needs to be recognised as perhaps not entirely due to excess body weight per se, but could be confounded by low height for age,” the authors say.

Urban Indian children were 2.5cm shorter than average, and children in Mexico were shorter by even more so with 6cm, it adds. In England, the National School Measurement program found overweight kids from low income households were shorter than average.

This highlights the importance of ensuring a supply of food that encourages healthy growth, and that is not jeopardised by the aggressive marketing of cheap, less nutritious products by multinational food companies, the study says.


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The Lancet research has found that worldwide a staggering 114 million infants aged under 5 years are overweight, 81 million are overweight and 33 million of them fall into the obese range.

In total there were 300 million obese or overweight children aged under 18.

A further 1.3 billion adults around the world are overweight or obese.

The World Health Organisation has set a target of no increase in obesity rates by 2025 but the research finds progress towards this goal has been “unacceptably slow”.

Only one in four countries had implemented a policy on healthy eating by 2010.

In the United States children are eating on average 200 too many calories a day and this excess food is delivering a $20 billion a year bonanza for food companies, the research shows.

The Lancet researchers call for tighter supervision and international regulation of the food supply; an international code of food marketing to protect children’s health; regulating food nutritional quality in schools along with programs to encourage healthy food preferences; taxes on unhealthy products such as sweetened drinks and subsidies on healthier foods for low-income families.

Real change will depend on pressure from the public similar to the public pressure that saw smoking bans in public buildings, they conclude.


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