Obesity has become a major health concern in Argentina - and is now ranked behind smoking as the largest preventable cause of death.

According to the World Health Organization, the country is following a global trend of soaring obesity rates in developing economies, affecting adults and children alike.

According to official data, nearly one in 10 children under the age of six in Argentina is severely overweight. For children, it can be the start of a life-long health battle.

Mexico Fights Child Obesity - 4 Year-Old Inspires

Carla, a 12-year-old girl from Buenos Aires, realised she had a problem two years ago when her weight reached almost 70 kilos.

"At school we would go for runs round the stadium, and I was always the last. I was made fun of when I was the last one. I cried and told my mom about it. So she said, 'Carla, you need to lose some weight!'", she recalls.

Carla was lucky - thanks to a special treatment program, her weight is now back to normal, and she can pass by calmly the local candy stores without feeling tempted.

Máximo Ravenna, a specialist in eating disorders, says obesity could radically decrease life expectancies in the coming decades.

"If this trend continues, by 2050 over 85 percent of the world's population will be overweight or obese, and the life expectancy of the generation being born now will be less than that of their parents. It’s the first time you see children with high cholesterol. Boys of 12 years old, boys with hypertension at 14", he said.

The problem is that not every parent understands that fast food is not the only cause of child obesity. Candies and snacks that are sold everywhere also pose a major threat to children's health.

The increasing number of children with access to junk food has prompted the Argentine health authorities to take urgent action. Recently a program was drawn up for regional authorities to diagnose problems early and provide treatment. One of the main goals is to monitor children's eating habits in schools.

New Nutritional Guidelines for Mexico's School Kids

But the causes of obesity are not only on the store shelves or in home refrigerators, but also in people’s minds. Often, the main challenge for parents is to show their children that food is not the only pleasure in life.

Follow us on twitter.com/foxnewslatino
Like us at facebook.com/foxnewslatino