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Junk Food Shortening Children’s Lives

Half eaten mars bar still in the wrapper

Data from around the world suggests that children’s lives are being cut shorter thanks to junk food.

Fast food and sugary drinks are being blamed for a global rise in obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

A Deadly Diet

Soaring numbers of children around the world are now obese, with other health problems also on the rise. Where high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes linked to obesity were once limited to adults, children are now developing them in their millions.skinny fries on baking paper

Experts say that children are being put at risk of shorter lifespans as well as crippling illnesses because of the fast-food culture which is prevalent in many places around the world. Health services are also struggling to cope with this epidemic of unhealthy eating.

The UN target to stop the rise of childhood obesity was 2025. Experts are now saying that this target will almost certainly be missed. With a large percentage of food careers tied to the very industries that are keeping these problems going, it’s certainly a matter of concern for those who want to follow ethical habits in their business and personal lives.

Childhood obesity is highest in Kiribati, Samoa, and Micronesia – three South Pacific island nations. The larger countries with big problems were Egypt, with 35.5% of children aged 5 to 17 being overweight, Greece with 31.4%, and Saudi Arabia with 30.5%. Following hot on their heels, and with problems continuing to rise, are the US at 29.3%, Mexico with 28.9%, and the UK at 27.7%.

Diabetes Epidemic

Type 2 Diabetes was previously unheard of in the age group described, and was the domain only of adults. Now, however, more than 3.5 million children suffer from it. In later life, type 2 can lead to amputations being necessary, and can also cause blindness, as well as other health concerns. These children are all at risk of those problems manifesting, and potentially earlier than we would normally see in adult sufferers.

The World Obesity Federation says that things are only going to get worse if we continue the way that we are. They predict a rise to 4.1 million children with type 2 in 2025.

Other health problems include glucose intolerance, a precursor to diabetes which is very likely to develop into the full-blown symptoms. 13.5 million children in the world suffer from this already. 24 million have problems with high blood pressure, and more than 33 million have fatty liver disease as a direct result of their obesity. This serious issue is normally linked to alcoholics, and can cause liver cancer or cirrhosis of the liver.

Experts also caution that the statistics could be misleading. They are based on obese children only, and there could be some children classified as overweight who also suffer from the health complications.

“These forecasts should sound an alarm bell for health service managers and health professionals,” said Tim Lobstein, the policy director of the WOF. “They will have to deal with this rising tide of ill health following the obesity epidemic. In a sense, we hope these forecasts are wrong: they assume current trends continue, but we are urging governments to take strong measures to reduce childhood obesity, and meet their agreed target of getting the levels of childhood obesity down to 2010 levels before we get to 2025.”

So how do we fix this issue? Being more mindful of the supply chain to developing countries is a big factor.

“You cannot replace contaminated water with Coca-Cola or Chocolate Nesquik, or a lack of good meals with a pack of fortified noodles, and still expect children to grow healthily,” Lobstein added.