The number of overweight or obese infants and young children (aged 0 to 5 years) increased from 32 million globally in 1990 to 41 million in 2016. In the WHO African Region alone the number of overweight or obese children increased from 4 to 9 million over the same period.
The vast majority of overweight or obese children live in developing countries, where the rate of increase has been more than 30% higher than that of developed countries.
Without intervention, obese infants and young children will likely continue to be obese during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
Obesity in childhood is associated with a wide range of serious health complications and an increased risk of premature onset of illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.
Exclusive breastfeeding from birth to 6 months of age is an important way to help prevent infants from becoming overweight or obese.
Childhood obesity is one of the most serious global public health challenges of the 21st century, affecting every country in the world. In just 40 years the number of school-age children and adolescents with obesity has risen more than 10-fold, from 11 million to 124 million (2016 estimates).1 In addition, an estimated 216 million were classified as overweight but not obese in 2016.