The incidence of chronic disease is escalating much more rapidly in developing countries than in industrialized countries. A potential emerging public health issue may be the increasing incidence of childhood obesity in developing countries and the resulting socioeconomic and public health burden faced by these countries in the near future. In a systematic review carried out through an electronic search of the literature from 1950-2007, the author compared data from surveys on the prevalence of overweight, obesity, and the metabolic syndrome among children living in developing countries. The highest prevalence of childhood overweight was found in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, whereas India and Sri Lanka had the lowest prevalence. The few studies conducted in developing countries showed a considerably high prevalence of the metabolic syndrome among youth. These findings provide alarming data for health professionals and policy-makers about the extent of these problems in developing countries, many of which are still grappling with malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. Time trends in childhood obesity and its metabolic consequences, defined by uniform criteria, should be monitored in developing countries in order to obtain useful insights for primordial and primary prevention of the upcoming chronic disease epidemic in such communities.
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