This week's front page stories--boasting headlines such as "Fat Children Take Over the World," "Worldwide Fat Attack," and "It's (Not) A Small World"--reported newly-released data from the first issue of the new International Journal of Pediatric Obesity. Though the headlines were entertaining, the subject is not: scientists project that half of children North and South America will be overweight by the end of the decade. This statistic trumps previous studies that estimated closer to one-third of children would pass the overweight mark by 2010. In not-far-behind Europe, nearly 40% will reach overweight status, up from today's 25%; in China, 20% will be overweight. The article's authors warn of an impending epidemic of early heart disease and stroke that may overwhelm the health care system. This generation, experts say, will be the first generation of children who are expected to live shorter lives than are their parents.
The launch of the new journal is news in itself. A journal dedicated solely to obesity among pediatric populations surely could not have been predicted a generation ago. Government officials and health experts are scrambling to alter the trend, but there is no magic bullet for a condition that grows organically from our way of life.