, Volume 80, Issue 1 Supplement, pp 28-37

Childhood Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome in Developing Countries

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Rapidly changing dietary practices accompanied by an increasingly sedentary lifestyle predispose to nutrition-related non-communicable diseases, including childhood obesity. Over the last 5 y, reports from several developing countries indicate prevalence rates of obesity (inclusive of overweight) >15 % in children and adolescents aged 5–19 y; Mexico 41.8 %, Brazil 22.1 %, India 22.0 % and Argentina 19.3 %. Moreover, secular trends also indicate an alarming increase in obesity in developing countries; in Brazil from 4.1 % to 13.9 % between 1974 and 1997; in China from 6.4 % to 7.7 % between 1991 and 1997; and in India from 4.9 % to 6.6 % between 2003-04 to 2005–06. Other contributory factors to childhood obesity include: high socio-economic status, residence in metropolitan cities and female gender. Childhood obesity tracks into adulthood, thus increasing the risk for conditions like the metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), polycystic ovarian syndrome, hypertension, dyslipidemia and coronary artery disease later in life. Interestingly, prevalence of the metabolic syndrome was 35.2 % among overweight Chinese adolescents. Presence of central obesity (high waist-to-hip circumference ratio) along with hypertriglyceridemia and family history of T2DM increase the odds of T2DM by 112.1 in young Asian Indians (< 40 y). Therapeutic lifestyle changes and maintenance of regular physical activity are most important strategies for preventing childhood obesity. Effective health awareness educational programs for children should be immediately initiated in developing countries, following the successful model program in India (project ‘MARG’).