Child and teenage obesity levels have risen ten-fold in the last four decades, meaning 124m boys and girls around the globe are too fat, according to new research.
The analysis in the Lancet is the largest of its kind and looks at obesity trends in over 200 countries.
In the UK, one in every 10 young people aged five to 19, is obese.
Obese children are likely to become obese adults, putting them at risk of serious health problems, say experts.
These include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer, such as breast and colon.
The Lancet analysis, released on World Obesity Day, comes as researchers from the World Obesity Federation warn that the global cost of treating ill health caused by obesity will exceed £920bn every year from 2025.
Obese the new ‘norm’
Although child obesity rates appear to be stabilising in many high-income European countries, including the UK, they are accelerating at an alarming rate in many other parts of the world, lead researcher Prof Majid Ezzati from Imperial College London says.
Researchers believe wide availability and promotion of cheap, fattening food is one of the main drivers.
Charts produced by the World Health Organisation show how weight gain is measured in boys and girls, according to their BMI (body mass index).
The largest increase in the number of obese children and adolescents has been in East Asia. China and India have seen rates “balloon” in recent years.
Polynesia and Micronesia have the highest rate of all – around half of the young population in these countries is overweight or obese.
The researchers say that if current world trends continue, ‘obese’ will soon be more common than ‘underweight’.
The number of underweight girls and boys worldwide has been decreasing since a peak in the year 2000.