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The BBC's Daniela Relph
"Most young people know what they like to eat"
 real 56k

Friday, 5 January, 2001, 01:19 GMT
Childhood obesity soars in UK
children eating
More children are getting overweight
The proportion of children classed as overweight or obese rocketed between the mid-80s and mid-90s, a study has found.

As it is suspected that overweight children often go on to become overweight or obese adults, the potential public health problem is immense.

The survey, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at thousands of boys and girls in England and Scotland, aged between four and 11.

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The first measurements were taken in 1974, then different children were measured in 1984, and more in 1994.

While the proportion of overweight or obese children remained steady between 1974 and 1984, there followed a startling increase between 1984 and 1994.

Approximately 5% of English boys tested in 1984 were overweight. A decade later, 9% were overweight.

While a greater proportion of girls were overweight in 1984, this group also increased by a similar amount over the next 10 years.

And similar increases were felt for obese children - 1.7% and 2.6% respectively of English boys and girls were overweight, slightly lower figures than in Scotland.

The report's authors, from King's College in London, concluded these problems would probably produce larger numbers of overweight and obese adults in the coming years.

Diabetes and heart disease

Being overweight increases the risk of heart disease, adult-onset (type II) diabetes, both of which place an enormous strain on the health service.

Burger: dream food for children
While some studies have found that children's diet in the 1950s may have been nutritionally better than that of the present day, other research suggests that their diets may have actually improved over recent years.

Professor Andrew Rugg-Gunn, co-director of the Human Nutrition Research Centre at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, has carried out his own diet surveys of 12-year-olds.

He found that while too much of their energy was coming from fat, in fact the children had an improved intake of vitamins and iron.

An increase in the consumption of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, alongside healthier spreads and margarines meant fewer damaging saturated fats were on the menu.

He said: "In fact, children's energy intake did not increase between 1980 and 1990 - but their energy output has decreased.

"In short, they are not doing as much exercise as they should."

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See also:

22 Dec 00 | Health
'Obesity a world-wide hazard'
14 Dec 98 | Health
The young risk their health
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