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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 May 2007, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
Cartoon characters to curb obesity
By Jane Elliott
BBC News, health reporter

The Great Grub Club Gang
The latest weapon to fight childhood obesity

Could Snack the dog, Professor Foodsmart and the Great Grub Club Gang be the answers to helping cut childhood obesity?

The World Cancer Research Fund hopes that by using the health conscious characters on its new website it can encourage better eating and a more active lifestyle among its target audience of four to seven-year-olds.

Competitions, puzzles and stories aim to encourage children to learn more about food.

The site, launched this month, introduces children to a new world of fruit and vegetables they may not have tried before and encourages them to cook with them and even to grow them.

Warnings

Funded by the Department of Health, The Great Grub Club website is a response to warnings from health professionals about the worsening situation with childhood obesity.

Sarah Kovandzich, WCRF children's education manager, said getting the healthy message across early was vital in the fight against disease and obesity.

Annabel, Geoff and Jay Simmons
The Simmons family love the new website

"If we can get the message across at this early age then it will help as part of prevention."

Statistics show that children only eat two of their recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, while 92% of children eat too much saturated fat.

A spokesman for the World Cancer Research fund warned that eating poorly now could cause health problems in later life.

"Many cancers take years to develop - so it's important that children, and those who care for them, and young adults hear our message.

"Poor lifestyle habits are established in childhood, and these may contribute to our children's risk of cancer later in life."

Poor diet and lack of activity indirectly contribute to cancer risk through overweight and obesity, he explained.

"But we also know that a diet rich in plant-based foods, fruit and vegetables, can reduce cancer risk, as can being more physically active."

Dr Greg Martin, of WCRF agreed: "It is very difficult as an adult to change lifestyle, but if you start healthily it is far easier to continue in this way."

Fun

Geoff Simmons, a graphic designer from London, who has been helping with the Great Grub Club website, said it had proved a big hit with his children Annabel, aged six, and three-year-old Jay.

"We have been growing our own cucumbers, carrots and berries in the garden.

"We have also been making juices and smoothies."

Daughter Annabel added: "I have enjoyed it.

"We have been making our own fruit lollies," she enthused.


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