Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition

Global prevalence and trends of overweight and obesity among preschool children

Mercedes de Onis, Monika Blössner, Elaine Borghi.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2010;92:1257–64.

Background

Childhood obesity is associated with serious health problems and the risk of premature illness and death later in life. Monitoring related trends is important.

Objective

The objective was to quantify the worldwide prevalence and trends of overweight and obesity among preschool children on the basis of the new World Health Organization standards.

Design

A total of 450 nationally representative cross-sectional surveys from 144 countries were analyzed. Overweight and obesity were defined as the proportion of preschool children with values >2 SDs and >3 SDs, respectively, from the World Health Organization growth standard median. Being “at risk of overweight” was defined as the proportion with values >1 SD and < or =2 SDs, respectively. Linear mixed-effects modeling was used to estimate the rates and numbers of affected children.

Results

In 2010, 43 million children (35 million in developing countries) were estimated to be overweight and obese; 92 million were at risk of overweight. The worldwide prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity increased from 4.2% (95% CI: 3.2%, 5.2%) in 1990 to 6.7% (95% CI: 5.6%, 7.7%) in 2010. This trend is expected to reach 9.1% (95% CI: 7.3%, 10.9%), or ’60 million, in 2020. The estimated prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity in Africa in 2010 was 8.5% (95% CI: 7.4%, 9.5%) and is expected to reach 12.7% (95% CI: 10.6%, 14.8%) in 2020. The prevalence is lower in Asia than in Africa (4.9% in 2010), but the number of affected children (18 million) is higher in Asia.

Conclusions

Childhood overweight and obesity have increased dramatically since 1990. These findings confirm the need for effective interventions starting as early as infancy to reverse anticipated trends.

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