The prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents in Latin America is projected to double by 2030, according to the international study “Action Teens.” The study analyzed young people from 10 countries, including Mexico, and will be presented at the European Obesity Congress in 2023. This alarming increase, specialists warn, could lead to significant long-term health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, in addition to negatively impacting the quality of life of minors.
Factors that will contribute to this trend are the lack of identification of obesity as a disease and barriers to weight loss faced by children and adolescents, as noted in the study. Shockingly, 24% of teens do not realize they suffer from obesity, whereas 33% of parents do not recognize the condition in their children. Additionally, the research shows that 80% of adolescents with obesity visit a doctor when they already suffer from at least one other comorbidity or related disease, indicating the importance of early detection.
Action Teens found that seven out of ten adolescents with obesity want to lose weight but do not know how. “In the study, we realized that adolescents face different barriers to manage their obesity,” emphasized endocrinologist Ricardo Reynoso. Further, 87% of health professionals failed to receive advanced post-school training on obesity issues, contributing to inadequate treatment and the lack of early detection.
Pediatric endocrinologist and Action Teens researcher Martín Toro-Ramos highlights that the child and adolescent obesity problem in Latin America is alarming, and, according to projections, by 2030, one in eight children in the region will suffer from this problem. Brazil and Mexico are among the most affected countries, projected to have 7.7 million and 6.9 million children and adolescents with obesity, respectively.
Pediatric endocrinologist at the General Hospital of Mexico and Action Teens researcher Nayely Garibay stresses the criticality of the findings and the urgency to act. “It is crucial that we take urgent action to address the problem of childhood and adolescent obesity,” he said. Early intervention has proven effective in treating obesity, but doctors and parents must work together to educate children and adolescents about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. Garibay emphasized that doctors must be trained to treat patients without stigma or prejudice and that obesity should be conceptualized from a scientific perspective, not as a moral failing.