Easy access to sugary food leads children to unhealthy lifestyle, WHO says

Published October 7, 2019, 4:53 PM

by Dr. Eduardo Gonzales

By Analou De Vera 

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday said that children may develop unhealthy lifestyle due to easy access to sugary and processed food.

FILE PHOTO: The World Health Organization (WHO) logo is pictured at the entrance of its headquarters in Geneva, January 25, 2015. (REUTERS / Pierre Albouy / MANILA BULLETIN)
World Health Organization (WHO) logo (REUTERS / Pierre Albouy / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“They have much easier access to sugary drinks or processed food. They are often cheaper and more accessible than healthier alternatives,” said Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for Western Pacific Region, in a press conference during the sidelines of the 70th Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific.

“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…” he added.

Kasai said that children exposed to these kinds of food are at risk to non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

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

Kasai noted that around 7.2 million children in the Western Pacific Region “are already overweight or obese by the time they turn five (years old).”

“It is very alarming because we know that children, who have a healthier habit at the earlier stage of their life, will continue to have a healthy lifestyle,” said Kasai.

“Our concern… these burdens are not shared equitably. Poorer children tend to be more exposed to unhealthy food and drink advertisements and they are more likely to consume unhealthy food and drinks than children from richer background,” he added.

Kasai said that a “framework” is expected to be released soon to address the problem.

“We have developed a regional action framework on protecting children from harmful effect of food marketing in Western Pacific which is expected to be adopted by the member states after these discussions this week,” said the WHO official.