A third of UK children are now overweight or obese by the age of 9, leading to health problems now and in later life. Researchers and health professionals are urging for swift action to tackle this rising epidemic of childhood obesity.
A report this week by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has called on the government to focus on child health as much as that of an ageing population (1).
The RCPCH is asking for a ban on advertising of foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt before the 9pm watershed, and on the internet. Teachers should also be trained in food and nutrition to improve school diets, and encourage physical activity alongside initiatives such as cycle lanes and 20mph speed limits.
Dr Rachel Pryke, clinical lead for nutrition at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), has also called for an emergency task force to be set up to improve 'infrastructure, investment and knowledge' (2).
British children are currently amongst the most overweight in Europe. The immediate risks of childhood obesity include:
- cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure
- bone and joint problems
- sleep apnea (disturbed breathing during sleep)
- social and psychological problems such as poor self-esteem.
In the long run, obesity in childhood increases the chance of obesity in adulthood, which is linked to range of health conditions including:
- cancer (after smoking, obesity is the biggest reversible factor in cancers)
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
- arthritis (3)
Lisa Murphy from the RCPCH’s Youth Advisory Panel said ‘There is an overwhelming body of evidence which highlights the need for early intervention in ensuring good health'.
- limit sugary drinks and snacks
- encourage healthy foods such as fruit and veg
- promote physical activity (at least 60 minutes a day) and limit the time kids spend in front of the TV or computer
- serve up childsize portions of food at meal times
- lead by example and try to eat healthy meals regularly as a family
- involve children in preparing and cooking meals
For more information for parents see: www.nhs.uk/Livewell/childhealth6-15/Pages/child-health-measurement-programme-overweight-advice.aspx
Fizz to Fat – Soft Drink Calorie Education Display
Stomach Size Wise Display
Spin Smart Physical Activity Game for Adults and Children
Weighed Down Fat Simulation Game for Children
Eatwell Plate Laminated Chart with FSA recommendations
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