Food habits are getting worse around the world, even in countries with traditionally healthy diets. The reason, according to a new series of obesity studies, is Western junk food. And since the makers of said junk food specifically target children with advertising, the problem is only likely to get worse.

Reports the New York Times:

An alarming pattern is emerging in Brazil, Vietnam, South Africa, India, Mexico and other formerly poor countries as they become richer, one study found: Many children are stunted in height from poor nutrition and yet obese.

In Egypt, one study found, stunting in toddlers increased after 2003 because home poultry flocks were culled to stop H5N1 avian flu.

At the same time, advertising of soft drinks, snacks and sugary cereals to children increased on television and in apps and online games; spending on Coke and Pepsi advertising alone in Arab countries rose to $400 million in 2012 from $40 million six years earlier.

The study also noted that a third of Egyptian teenagers are overweight, a statistic that might not be unrelated to the following two facts: in 1994, there were four McDonald's outlets, now there are 56; and over the past 20 years, Coke consumption has tripled in the country.

Read the complete scientific studies in the Lancet and Lancet Global Health.

Photo by reynermedia