Belfast Telegraph

Warning as one in four kids classed overweight

By Victoria O'Hara

More than one in four children in Northern Ireland are overweight or obese, new figures have revealed.

A breakdown of the worrying research also shows that 7% of children aged between two and 15-years-old are classified as obese in the province.

The ticking timebomb of the obesity problem was highlighted in the annual Healthy Survey Northern Ireland.

Campaigners have now repeated their warnings that the health service is being put under increasing strain through treating killer diseases linked to obesity – including Type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

For 2012/13 it showed that 7% of children aged between two and 15 were classified as obese – but 27% were classed as both overweight and obese.

A further breakdown showed that 19% of two to 10 year-olds were overweight and 6% were classed as obese.

Health Minister Edwin Poots is determined to address the problem of obesity which he described as a "major health issue".

"Obesity continues to be one of our most important public health challenges as it can contribute to, and increase the risk of, life-threatening diseases such as heart disease, some cancers and Type 2 diabetes," he said.

The figures are published as the British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland is backing a petition calling on the UK government to block junk food marketing to children at certain times.

The British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland analysed over 750 TV ads and found that almost one in four shown between 8pm and 9pm were for food (22%), with viewers seeing as many as 11 junk food adverts per hour.

Within the food adverts, the most frequently shown were unhealthy products from supermarkets (25%). This was followed by fast-food chains (13%) and chocolate and sweet companies the third most common (12%).

BHF NI, which is part of the campaign group Action on Junk Food Marketing, released the findings to encourage people to get behind a new petition.

The figures show that children's TV viewing peaks at around 8pm but current laws created to protect children from targeted advertising do not typically cover this time.

This, according to the BHF, leaves a "loophole" in junk food marketing, which they believe needs to be closed.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the BHF, said: "We want the UK government to protect children by switching off junk food adverts on TV until after 9pm and putting rules in place to stop children becoming fair game for internet marketing."

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