Our lacklustre attitude towards our health has finally caught up with us. The rising trend of obesity is becoming a worldwide epidemic, and our attitude towards it is the cause. The World Obesity Federation has just announced that the global annual medical cost of treating obesity is expected to hit US$1.2 trillion by 2025. Dismally, the effect has now spread to children and adolescents, with the percentage of sufferers jumping tenfold in the past 40 years. If this is not clear enough, it means that a previous 11 million obese children and adolescents have jumped to over 120 million over a short span of four decades.
According to studies, the trend of obesity is noted to be accelerating in low and middle-income countries, especially in Asia. Researchers in Imperial College London and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have reported that childhood and teen obesity rates have levelled off in the United States, north-western Europe and other wealthy countries but still maintain the “unacceptably high” levels.
It is no wonder why obesity is considered a growing epidemic when temptation is dangling at every section.
Health researchers are using these statistics to sound warning bells to call for better nutrition at home and school. There needs to be concerted efforts to reduce the consumption intake of unhealthy food and snacks. For example, soft drink manufacturers in Singapore have agreed to reduce the amount of sugar in their drinks. In the UK, suggestions of adjusting the salt and sugar intake in food corporations has been slow to catch on.
A quick tour around our local Tesco supermarket reveals the quantity of junk food on sale, a bag of Walker crisps for just 99 pence. Come the next week, a family sized packet of Kit Kats beckons you with its sugary goodness, and we take two or three because the sale ends on Tuesday. It is no wonder why obesity is considered a growing epidemic when temptation is dangling at every section.
Dr Fiona Bull of WHO says, “what is available, the cost, the pricing and the marketing of individual foods influences our choices every day.” When sticking to a groceries budget comes as the topmost priority to most families, many will go for the cheapest, sometimes the unhealthiest food choice just to save a pound of two. Naturally, what the adults eat will pass on to their children, because why buy homegrown products when processed food keeps hunger at bay at a cheaper price?
It may be extremely adorable to have a chubby baby to cuddle but studies have found that obese children are at a higher risk of being obese adults. The excessive ballooning of weight can lead to the contraction of diabetes, heart disease and cancers at a young age. The problem does not only lie in the diet, but also within the increased amount of screen time that replaces exercise! Gone are the days where children frolic in the parks and beaches at dusk, now we see kids as young as 2 years old glued to their electronic screens.
The Government should come up with measures to regulate the price of homegrown products to make it more affordable for citizens in the long run.
If this epidemic persists, we will be raising a generation of overweight and low self-esteem children. We will see a trend of bullying and low self-confidence in schools, these insecurities are likely to follow them to adulthood where the pressures of working life will cause habits of stress-eating. The cycle will never end.
Education could very well be the turning point to countering obesity and encourage families to participate in outdoor activities. Events like National Vegetable Day should be as important as Pancake Day, where everybody from students to working students get a free fruit to eat. Of course, the Government should come up with measures to regulate the price of homegrown products to make it more affordable for citizens in the long run.
Ultimately, it takes a concerted effort for everyone to make huge overhauls to their lifestyle, but slow and steady wins the race. After all, when there are people around the world fighting desperately to preserve their lives, why should we squander away our health then cry when we see our bodies wasting away?