Childhood and teenage obesity is on the rise worldwide, new study shows

Obesity rates are rising in low- and middle-income countries, the study found.

In real numbers, 124 million young people ages 5 to 19 were obese in 2016 compared to 11 million in 1975, the study showed. Researchers analyzed data from 2,416 population-based studies that measured the height and weight of 31.5 million people between the ages of 5 and 19.

In the U.S., 7.5 million boys and 6.1 million girls were obese in 2016, the study found. In comparison, 1.6 million girls and 1.7 million boys were obese in the U.S. in 1975.

In recent years, obesity rates have become more stable in high-income countries, including the U.S., but they continue to rise in low- and middle-income countries, Majid Ezzati, lead author of the study and professor at Imperial College’s School of Public Health, said in a statement.

“These worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe, with healthy, nutritious foods too expensive for poor families and communities,” Ezzati said in a statement.

In many middle-income countries in Latin America, East Asia and the Caribbean, children and teenagers have quickly gone from being mostly underweight to mostly overweight. The trend puts these children at a greater risk of disease, said Ezzati.

More children and teenagers worldwide are moderately or severely underweight than obese, but that will change by 2022 if the obesity rates continue to grow as fast as they did in the last 40 years, according to the study.