This Is Why Child Obesity Rates Have Soared

New data on almost 13 million people, from 200 countries around the world, points to a tenfold increase in obesity rates among children and adolescents over the last four decades. This is the largest study of its kind and it paints a startling and depressing picture of a world that is getting fatter.

This Is Why Child Obesity Rates Have Soared

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The research also reveals that the rise in child and adolescent obesity rates in high income countries is beginning to slow down. And that in low and middle income countries — especially in Asia — it is accelerating.

These findings should not be a surprise to anyone. Obesity is an issue with no geographical, ethnicity, age or gender boundaries. Rather, obesity is the inevitable consequence of an “obesogenic” environment that we have constructed for ourselves. If we surround children with foods that are high in fat and sugar and restrict their opportunities to run around, they are at risk of developing obesity.

Obesity rates are a visible sign that all is not well with the world and it is just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface, the burden of chronic diseases is growing and nobody is immune.

Not enough play, too much junk food

The problem is that we have restructured our environment to be the exact opposite of what we need to maintain our energy balance.

On one side of the equation, our food supply is dominated by energy dense, nutrient poor foods that are available 24 hours a day. In the United States alone, companies spend $1.79 billion annually to market unhealthy food to children, compared with only $280 million on healthy foods. In Canada over 90 per cent of food and beverage product ads viewed by children and youth online  are for unhealthy food products.

On the other side of the energy balance equation, our towns and cities have been designed to support motorized transportation, instead of human-powered movement through walking or cycling. This creates a dependency on cars that further impacts individual physical activity.

More than 1.2 million people die on the world’s roads every year, with 90 per cent of deaths occurring in low or middle-income countries. The result is that fewer people walk or cycle. Many parents are concerned about the safety of their children, meaning that fewer children engage in spontaneous activity or experience the health and development benefits of free play outdoors.

Having engineered regular bouts of physical activity out of our children’s lives, we then try to squash it back in through organized sport. But this creates additional challenges for families, as I have discovered in research conducted in collaboration with colleagues at Dalhousie and Acadia University. In this study, parents noted how fitting organized activities into their lives led to a reliance on foods eaten outside the home.

So we have one healthy behaviour — physical activity — competing with, and in some cases displacing, another — healthy nutrition. This takes us right back to the energy-in side of the energy balance equation.

This was originally published by The Conversation.

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Obesity-Related Diseases Expected To Cost Australia $21 Billion

The annual cost of treating obesity-related diseases is estimated to cost Australia $21 billion by 2025, according to new expert estimates.

Obesity-Related Diseases Expected To Cost Australia $21 Billion

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Obesity is one of the leading causes driving the high rates of heart disease and diabetes and has been linked to many types of cancer.

Without action on obesity, the annual global medical cost of treating these serious health consequences will reach $US11.2 trillion per year within the next eight years, warns the World Obesity Federation (WOF).

According to new figures released by the WOF, the US faces the biggest treatment bill, with a rise from $US325b per year in 2014 to $US555b in 2025.

Australia faces a significant increase, with the economic burden of obesity to rise from $US9 billion ($A12 billion) to $US17 billion ($A22 billion).

“The annual medical costs of treating the consequences of obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease is truly alarming,” says Professor Ian Caterson, President of the World Obesity Federation.

“Continual surveillance by WOF has shown how obesity prevalence has risen dramatically over the past 10 years and with an estimated 177 million adults suffering severe obesity by 2025, it is clear that governments need to act now to reduce this burden on their national economies.”

The percentage of Australian adult men and women living with obesity was around 27 per cent three years ago. Based on current trends, that figure will rise to 34 per cent in eight years time.

Experts from the WOF say spending more on treating and preventing obesity will save countries many millions in the long term.

This was originally published by Huffington Post.

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Uncovering the Brain Biology of Eating Disorders

Why are some people vulnerable to eating disorders and others not?

There is emerging evidence it may in a part reflect brain abnormalities that affect eye movement and the regulation of anxiety. It could open up new avenues for developing drug treatments for treating eating disorders that are among the most dangerous of all mental illnesses, and among the hardest to cure.

The problem is, while advances in brain imaging and gene mapping are starting to reveal for the first time the biological underpinnings of various psychological disorders, they come with a high price tag. And that risks marginalising research into a mental illness like eating disorders, which despite their severity and the shortage of treatment options, can still struggle to be taken seriously.

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“We badly need something new in tackling eating disorders,” says University of Melbourne psychologist Dr Scott Griffiths.

He is part of a team led by Professor Susan Rossell at Swinburne University, that also includes her colleague Dr Andrea Phillipou and St Vincent’s Hospital’s Professor David Castle, that is researching a link between anorexia nervosa and the way a person’s eyes track between two points. It may provide a crucial biological marker for what is the deadliest of all mental illnesses, having a mortality rate of up to 7 per cent.

Lack of treatments

Dr Griffiths warns there are no widely effective medicines for curing eating disorders. While psychological traits like poor self-esteem or perfectionism are associated with the illness, we know little about the neurobiological underpinnings of the disorder. That makes it difficult to develop effective drugs, and leaves treatment heavily reliant on traditional psychological counselling.

That is a serious problem when treatment for eating disorders only improves symptoms in only about 40 per cent of cases.

The big hope he says is in better understanding what may be happening in someone’s brain that makes him or her vulnerable to developing an eating disorder. Their current work points to possible abnormalities in the neural pathways of a specific part of the brain and possibly the regulation of a chemical – gamma-aminobutyric acid – that acts to calm the nervous system.

“We are trying to pin point the biological basis of anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders, which can then be a starting point for new treatments, and at the very least be used as an adjunct to talk therapy,” says Dr Griffiths.

Taking eating disorders seriously

But he says eating disorders risk being left behind in the hunt for the biological causes of the illness because they aren’t given the same research funding priority as other mental illnesses.

With colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Toronto, Dr Griffiths has done the numbers on the relative research funding of eating disorders. Published as a letter in the October issue of the highly regarded international journal World Psychiatry, they warn that in the US, while schizophrenia attracts US$86.97 in funding per sufferer and autism US$58.65, funding for eating disorders is just US73c per affected individual.

The story is the same in Australia and Canada. In Australia, research funding for eating disorders is just A$1.10 per affected person, compared with A$32.62 for autism and A$67.36 for schizophrenia. In Canada it runs at CAD$2.41, but funding for autism is hundreds of times that at CAD$462.14, while funding for schizophrenia runs at CAD$103.31.

This was originally published by the University of Melbourne.

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What Causes Obesity in Children?

In the modern day life, it is often hard to watch diet and maintain weight along with overall health due to the overflow of foods that are less in nutritional value as well as lack of time to properly monitor the daily intake.

Most of the adults are perpetually busy in balancing their jobs at family at home. This not only affects their health but other members’ health, especially younger children who need constant attention, to a great extent.

The number of people diagnosed as obese or overweight has increased over the recent years.  Consequently, the risks of getting deadly diseases such as cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and hypertension are on the rise as well.

One of the most significant things to note here is that the problem of obesity and related diseases has not been only seen in adults but a vast majority of children too, especially in the United States.

what causes obesity in children

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Childhood obesity has been labeled as an epidemic which has been seen in major parts of the world. In accordance with the World Health Organization, there are 43 million children under the age of five which have been classified as obese in the United States alone.

The same report by WHO has also predicted that more than 60% of the diseases worldwide will be linked to or directly caused by obesity alone in all of the age groups. The reason listed behind this is the negligence of obesity in children.

Most of the children who are overweight or obese in childhood continue to have poor health and excess fat as they grow older. Where childhood obesity is a serious issue which continues to spread around the world, unfortunately, many of the parents still do not take it seriously.

According to a survey carried out in 2013, the number of children who were obese was found in families with adults having poor eating habits as well as with parents who themselves followed a healthy diet.

Many still forget that it is important to look after the diet of the children along with their own and that the children are not able to ‘grow out of’ obesity by themselves. The survey also showed that this was a popularly shared view in the families.

Before moving towards figuring out a solution to cure obesity in children it is fundamental to diagnose what is causing it in the first place or else the adopted ways to tackle the problem might just not work.

What Causes Obesity in Children?

While most of the children suffering from obesity have some common habits or lifestyles, the actual causes of it can vary from one child to another. In addition, the treatment for the obesity is dependent upon the reason.

In case a parent tries to cure their child’s obesity by just doing the obvious steps, chances are that the efforts will have little or no effect. On the contrast, it may actually worsen the condition of the child.

This was originally published by Reports Healthcare.

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Australia’s Eating Disorder Crisis: Government to Give Millions in Funding for Services

Patients with eating disorders will receive better access to lifesaving treatment and support, in a $3 million funding boost announced by Health Minister Greg Hunt.

About 1 million Australians are suffering from an eating disorder like anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating, but only a quarter of them are currently in treatment.

Australia's Eating Disorder Crisis

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“People with eating disorders are a hidden part of the great mental health challenge and we need to bring them into the light,” Mr Hunt told the ABC.

The Government will give $1.7 million to the Butterfly Foundation’s national helpline, ED HOPE, so it can offer an extra three hours of counselling services every day.

“1800 ED HOPE provides evidence-based, free support and counselling regardless of location, circumstances or lived experience,” the Butterfly Foundation’s chief executive Christine Morgan said.

The Butterfly Foundation will also receive an additional $1.2 million to fund a training program for healthcare workers like GPs and nurses to identify the signs that their patient may have an eating disorder.

Mr Hunt said the Medicare review committee is also currently looking at comprehensive, specific coverage for eating disorder patients.

Mr Hunt said he has watched a close friend struggle with an eating disorder.

“There are people who are very close to me who have been through some of the great eating disorder challenges. What really strikes me is that it takes not just weeks, not just months, but sometimes many years to recover,” he said.

Family touched by anorexia welcomes funding

Alan and Barbara Bagnall lost their daughter Kate late last year after a 30-year battle with anorexia.

“She was very creative, very energetic, keen on athletics. At the age of five, she pleaded with us to let her go on overnight bush walks,” Mr Bagnall remembered.

But at 15, Kate developed an eating disorder and the Bagnalls couldn’t find decent treatment for her in the Canberra area.

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