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Friday, October 15, 1999 Published at 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK


Telly tubby lifestyle

Televisions, videos and computers are creating a generation of fat toddlers, even though they are actually eating less, researchers have found.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford: "One in fourteen toddlers are classed as obese"
Experts believe that as soon as children leave behind the manic "terrible twos" phase they adopt a couch potato lifestyle that poses a long-term threat to their health.

The new research, reported in the British Medical Journal, is being touted as the first hard evidence of the scale of the problem.

Researchers from Glasgow and Bristol studied 1,000 children born in Bristol in 1991 and 1992.

Pauline Emmett author of the report: "Parents are finding it more difficult to keep their children active"
They measured and weighed each child each year, and determined whether they were overweight by calculating their body mass index (BMI).

They found 16% were overweight at the age of two, but that by the age of four the proportion had risen to 20%.

Six per cent of the two-year-olds and eight per cent of the four-year-olds were defined as obese.

Obesity numbers rise

The findings show that the proportion of children who are overweight and who are obese has increased since the 1980s.

Chloe Arnold visited a nursery in Glasgow to find out what was on the menu
Physiologist Dr John Reilly, of Glasgow University's department of human nutrition, said: "This is probably an underestimate of the problem. Body mass index does not identify every child who has a high level of body fat."

Other studies show today's youngsters are eating less than in the past, but are watching more television at an early age.

Dr Reilly said: "What we suspect is happening is that pre-school children have been replacing natural active behaviour with inactive behaviour like watching TV.

"Children have been eating less, but are watching more TV - which includes watching videos, Playstations or PC screens.

"The percentage increases do not sound a lot - but if you imagine a large school or nursery intake of 1,000 youngsters, you would expect 50 children to be obese, but we are finding around 80."

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