An estimated 41 million children under five years old are obese or overweight, United Nations health experts warned Wednesday while launching new guidelines to tackle the global epidemic.
Faced with evidence indicating that the problem affects rich and poor countries alike, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released details on how trained professionals can better identify youngsters in need of help.
The new obesity guidelines include counselling and dieting, an assessment of eating habits along with the more usual weight and height measurements.
According to a UN report, WHO says the prevalence of obesity in children reflects changing patterns towards unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.
Urbanization, increased incomes, availability of fast foods, educational demands, television viewing and gaming have led to a rise in the consumption of foods high in fats, sugar and salt and lower levels of physical activity.
While there have been major public health interventions to promote improved diet and patterns of physical activity in adults, the report says that the contribution of antenatal and young-child interventions to reducing the risk of obesity in later life have not been significantly reviewed.