The numbers of obese or overweight children worldwide has risen by 10 million since 1990, prompting WHO to call for tight regulations. The international health body stated that at least 41 million children under the age of five are now obese or overweight across the globe.

WHO warns global, 41 million children below age five are obese

In a report issued Monday, the World Health Organization warns that across the globe at least 41 million children below the age of five are now classed as overweight or obese, a fact that has been called an obesity crisis time bomb as it will dramatically increase future rates of associated health problems like heart disease, diabetes and could ultimately increase the number off preventable early deaths – unless we act now. Of this total, the number from lower middle-income counties-emerging markets for the food industry-has gone up from 7.5 million to 15.5 million. As such, the report recommends the implementation of comprehensive programmes that promote the intake of healthy foods and reduce the intake of unhealthy foods and sugar-sweetened beverages by children and adolescents. Additionally, authors of the study found that the number of Africa’s children younger than 5 who are obese or overweight has doubled from 1990 to 2014.

WHO’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity said: “The Commission believes there is sufficient rationale to warrant the introduction of an effective tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

Its specific charges within each recommendation were tougher, however. While there was no mention of the recently released 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, this document has been criticized for being purposely opaque in areas that were not favorable to the food industry.

As Mexico has demonstrated, implementing taxes on sugary drinks is an effective strategy to reduce consumption of sugar and to fund nutrition and physical activity programs.

Different cultures such as those that exist in Africa see obese children pegged as healthy ones, especially if they come from privileged home.

In the report, it stated: “Processed, energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and sugar-sweetened beverages, in increasing portion size, at affordable prices have replaced minimally-processed fresh foods and water in many settings at school and family meals”. Together, we can ensure that the places where our children live, learn, play and pray make it easy and enjoyable for them to eat healthy foods and be active.

Implement a global standard for nutrient labeling, including front of package labeling

There has also been an uptick in marketing of junk foods to children, the report said. “The greatest obstacle to effective progress on reducing childhood obesity is a lack of political commitment and a failure of governments and other actors to take ownership, leadership and necessary actions”, the report states.

The role of schools was also addressed, with the report urging a ban on the “provision or sale of unhealthy foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages and energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods, in the school environment.”

The WHO report warned that childhood obesity is reaching “alarming proportions” in many countries and poses an urgent and serious challenge.

“Children with obesity are very likely to remain obese as adults and are at risk of chronic illness,” it stressed.