FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, March 06, 2006

Childhood Obesity to Soar Within Five Years

According to a study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, rates of childhood obesity are expected to skyrocket in the coming years, with half of the children in North and South America obese by 2010.

Europe doesn't fare much better, with 38% of kids there expected to be overweight within five years. Even China will see its population of obese children increase to 20% in that period.

As in the US, the combination of junk food, poor overall eating habits and less exercise is to blame for the problem worldwide. The trend has crucial implications on the future health of the young generation -- most notably, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A generation of chronically ill people will not only tax healthcare systems worldwide, but will be less productive overall, and more dependent on others (Their parents? Their children?), taking far more resources from the economy than they will put in. Yet this may not be a lengthy phenomenon. "This is going to be the first generation that’s going to have a lower life expectancy than their parents," said UK surgeon Dr. Phillip Thomas. "It’s like the plague is in town and no one is interested."

To fight the epidemic, radical steps need to be taken, says Dr. Philip James, chairman of the International Obesity Task Force. Dr. James believes that all marketing aimed at children -- especially for food -- should be banned.

RELATED: Two additional studies claim that sodas are the leading factor in weigh gain. While this might seem to be stating the obvious, given that a single serving of non-diet soda contains about 130 calories and little nutritional value, the soft drink industry is already decrying the studies as "junk science." Those who think these studies are on to something believe that making this formal connection could be as important -- and as difficult -- as the link between smoking and cancer, which took decades to prove conclusively.

ALSO RELATED: For the first time in over 20 years, sales of cases of soda in the US have declined, down 0.7% in 2005. Industry experts cite the explosive popularity of non-carbonated beverages such as sports drinks and bottled water as a reason behind soda's decline in market share. It's also possible that a health-related backlash against sugary soft drinks is in the works.

Source: MSNBC