WHO sounds alarm on kids’ access to sugary, fatty food

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    THE World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday sounded the alarm over the accessibility of sugary and fatty foods and drinks to children, making them prone to unhealthy lifestyle and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

    Speaking in a press conference at the sidelines of the 70th Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in Manila, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai said the accessibility of sugary and fatty foods and drinks to children is already at a “very alarming” stage.

    “In some parts of the region, more than 90 percent of all food and drinks marketed to children are high in saturated fats, trans fats, sugar or salt… they have much easier access to sugary drinks or processed food. They are often cheaper and more accessible than healthier alternatives,” said Kasai.

    He said this makes children susceptible to NCDs at a very young age, such as diabetes, hypertension, and even cancer.

    “Children who establish that kind of lifestyle at an early state of their life will have higher risk and hypertension, diabetes, obesity. Those NCDs are threats to our children in the future,” said Kasai.

    WHO data showed there are around 7.2 million children in the region who are overweight or obese by the time they turn 5 years old. Worse, records reveal that around 84 million people, aged 5 to 19, in the region are overweight and obese.

    Childhood obesity is associated with breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and even premature death.

    Kasai said the WHO is looking come out with a framework that will help address the problem on accessibility and marketing of unhealthy food and drinks.