10 Times More Children Are Obese Than 40 Years Ago

Only 11 million children worldwide were obese in 1975, compared to 124 million in 2016

The United States has an obesity rate of 20 percent.

A new report published in The Lancet suggested that worldwide weight disparities are only getting worse. The number of obese children rose to 124 million in 2016, while the number of underweight children tallied 194 million globally.

While the number of underweight individuals has been steadily decreasing, the prevalence of malnutrition remains high. In India (50.1 percent) and in Pakistan (41.6 percent), girls had a particularly high incidence of underweight in 2016.

Meanwhile, globally, 5.6 percent of girls and 7.8 percent of boys were considered obese.

Countries in the Pacific Islands beat out the United States for having the greatest proportion of obese children, with 30 percent of their youth aged 5 to 19 considered obese. This number in some of the world’s smallest countries is, of course, much lower than the gargantuan proportion of undernourished individuals in some of the world’s most populated countries, like India and Pakistan.

The United States tied with other nations such as Kuwait and Qatar with an obesity rate of 20 percent for that same age group.

“While average BMI among children and adolescents has recently plateaued in Europe and North America, this is not an excuse for complacency as more than one in five young people in the U.S. and one in 10 in the UK are obese,” said James Bentham, co-author of the paper.

The World Health Organization chimed in as well on October 11, asserting that “widespread” action must be taken to tackle obesity. In response, the United Kingdom is attempting to censor junk food ads from prime-time television in an attempt to reduce their stagnant rate of obesity.

Little other reaction has been initiated in response to the underweight proportion of the population, though Harvard professor Dr. Frank Hu told CNN, “We mustn’t forget that undernutrition remains a major global public health problem.”

“We’re experiencing this double burden of undernutrition and overnutrition at the same time,” Hu explained. “This is nothing new.”


While the conversation about world hunger remains muted after the study, American obesity has been a topic of excessive conversation for decades.