Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Obesity in Kids Rises Around the World

Study Shows Developed Nations Have Highest Percentage of Obese Children
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Oct. 21, 2010 -- The proportion of young children who are overweight or obese has increased about 60% in the past 20 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) says in a new report.

The WHO says that in 1990, 4.2% of kids under age 5 were overweight or obese, but that figure grew to 6.7% in 2010.

What’s more, researchers say the prevalence will likely hit 9.1% in 2020, and that the problem is worse in developed nations than in developing ones.

The prevalence in developed nations is 11.7%, compared with 6.1% in developing countries, but the trend is expected to pick up speed in developing regions over the next 10 years.

The WHO estimates that 43 million children worldwide are overweight or obese, and 81% of them live in developing countries. The number is expected to increase to about 60 million over the next decade.

The WHO says at least 92 million young children face the risk of becoming overweight. “These findings confirm the need for effective interventions and programs to reverse anticipated trends starting from very early childhood,” the researchers say, and that “waiting for school programs to address” the problem will probably be too late.

The study authors used data from 450 surveys representing 144 countries.

The study is published in the November issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Obesity Trends

The estimated percentage of kids who are overweight or obese is lower in Asia than in Africa, but in terms of total numbers, Asia has the highest number of overweight and obese children.

Among key findings:

  • Northern Africa has the highest prevalence of overweight/obese children, at 17%, due mainly to high prevalence in Egypt of 20.5% in 2008, and in Libya, of 22.4% in 2007.
  • The greatest numbers of overweight young children in 2010 live in South Central Asia, where the estimate is 6.6 million.

“The rise in childhood overweight and obesity since 1990 has been dramatic,” the authors write.

“These findings confirm the need for effective interventions and programs” to reduce obesity, according to the report.

“If trends are not reversed, increasing rates of childhood overweight and obesity will have enormous implications, not only for future health care expenditures but also for the overall development of nations,” the researchers say.

They recommend routine assessments of children because evidence indicates childhood obesity starts as early as 6 months of age. Families need to be counseled on appropriate feeding practices and on other steps they can take to keep their children from gaining too much weight.

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration