Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland obesity shock as report shows 40% of teens are overweight


By Ella Pickover

Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of overweight or obese teenagers in the UK, a study has found.

Across the UK, researchers found that more than one in three British teens are overweight or obese.

The research revealed that 20% of 14-year-olds in the UK are obese, and a further 15% were deemed to be overweight - a total of 35%. But in Northern Ireland, that rises to 40%

Leading children's doctors said the study was further evidence of the "childhood obesity crisis" gripping Britain.

The new figures come from research conducted by experts at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at University College London (UCL).

Researchers examined data from more than 10,000 teenagers taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study - a study tracking the lives of thousands of youngsters born at the turn of the century.

They found varying responses from across the UK - 40% of 14-year-olds in Northern Ireland were overweight or obese compared to 38% in Wales and 35% in both Scotland and England.

Youngsters whose mothers had a low level of education were more likely to be of excess weight than those whose mothers had a degree.

Meanwhile, the authors also found differences between white and black teenagers - with 48% of young black people classified as having excess weight, compared to 34.5% of white adolescents. Professor Emla Fitzsimons, who co-authored the study, said: "Children who are overweight or obese face an increased risk of many health problems later in life, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

"Overweight and obesity are also associated with psychological problems such as low self-esteem and depression, and with lower educational attainment.

"As members of the millennium generation reach early adolescence, rates of obesity and overweight remain a public health concern.

"These findings show that although rates of excess weight have stabilised since age 11, there is still a worryingly high proportion of young people in this generation who are an unhealthy weight."

Co-author Dr Benedetta Pongiglione added: "This report provides important evidence to underpin the commitment of governments across the UK to reducing levels of overweight and obesity in childhood.

"It will now be vitally important to monitor whether key policies, such as the levy on soft drinks and sugar reduction across food products, has a positive impact on the health of this generation."

Commenting on the research, Professor Mary Fewtrell, lead on nutrition at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "Data from the Millennium Cohort Study provides further evidence of the scale of the childhood obesity crisis in the UK.

"What's striking is the clear link between poor education among parents and children's high obesity levels."

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