Why America’s Exploding Teen Obesity Crisis Is Bad News for U.S. Health Care

October 11, 2017, 5:20 PM UTC

A new study published by World Health Organization (WHO) scientists and other researchers in the journal the Lancet makes clear the stark reality of America’s obesity epidemic and the toll it’s taken among young people over the past 40 years (there are 10 times more obese children and teenagers in the world today compared to 1975).

In short, researchers found that child and teen obesity rates have skyrocketed in the U.S. and other high-income nations (and are also becoming major concern in low- and middle-income countries). But America’s numbers are a particular cause for concern despite a recent leveling off in the childhood obesity rate, according to the researchers. And that has broad implications throughout the U.S. health sector.

“Prevalence of obesity was about 20% or more in several countries in Polynesia and Micronesia, the Middle East and north Africa, the Caribbean, and the USA,” wrote the study authors. The research suggests just under 20% of U.S. girls and more than 23% of U.S. boys are obese. That puts the USA at “the highest obesity rates for girls and boys.”

There are more than 120 million obese children and young adults across the globe. What’s particularly troubling about this figure is that obesity early on in life often corresponds to obesity later in life—and the multitude of health complications like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes which can accompany it.

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