An estimated 28% of people in the United States and 20% in Europe are obese and many more are overweight, making obesity the fastest growing health epidemic of the past two decades.
Professor Andrew Prentice of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the obesity epidemic that has resulted from too much fatty food and a decrease in physical activity has caused a shift in human evolution and shape.
Obesity Starting Younger
Adolescents are becoming obese and at a younger age and along with the younger onset of obesity, doctors are seeing Type II diabetes and other weight-related illnesses, which normally develop much later, in younger patients.
“Diabetes is a very serious, life-threatening disease. So if you put all those things together, these young people who are being ambushed by this change in the environment are storing up for themselves enormous ill health in the future,” he said.
Prentice added that there have already been extreme cases where parents have outlived their children who have died of obesity.
The problem is compounded because obese children and adolescents are more likely to remain obese as adults and the younger obesity occurs, the more severe its long-lasting effects on health.
About 30,000 people in Britain die of obesity-related causes each year, cutting short their lives by about nine years, according to the National Audit Office.
“Obesity is a gradually evolving disease and the effects of it take time to accumulate. There is a time component to this. The longer you are obese the more likely you are to accrue all the damaging side effects of obesity,” said Prentice.
Many children are brought up on fast food diets, high in fats, and are exercising less and spending more time in front of computers and televisions instead of exercising and playing outdoors.
Prentice said major changes in transport, food, advertising and education policies are needed to encourage people to exercise more, eat better and provide children with safer places to play are needed to change the trend.