A recent report from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that childhood obesity is a growing problem in Asia. According to the report, in 2014, 48% of the world’s overweight children (5 years old or younger) were living in Asia. In high income Asian countries, children in lower socioeconomic groups are at the greatest risk of becoming obese. In low and middle income countries, children in wealthier families risk gaining weight due to rapidly changing access to new foods and changing physical activity patterns. Overweight or obese children are more likely to develop health complications later in life.
Overall obesity rates are also on the rise in Asia. A recent report from the Economist Intelligence Unit studies obesity rates from 2010 to 2014. During that time period, obesity rates grew throughout Southeast Asia in countries such as Vietnam (38% growth in obesity), Indonesia (33%), Malaysia (33%), and Thailand (27%). In absolute terms, obesity rates in ASEAN countries are still far behind those of the U.S., but the rapidly growing number of obesity cases is a cause for concern to local health authorities. The U.S. has the world’s largest number of obese people (86 million), but China is second with over 62 million obese residents, while India ranks third with 40 million obese citizens.