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Obesity warning issued for children

Children who skip meals, consume fizzy drinks and watch too much TV are storing up serious health problems for later in life, a charity has warned.

Teenagers seem to be worse than younger age groups, with many leading inactive lifestyles and missing out on vital nutrients, according to a report from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Oxford University.

Around one in three (30%) children and young people are overweight or obese, which can cause problems including diabetes and heart disease.

The report, which brings together a range of health statistics, found around two in five 13-year-olds (39% of girls and 43% of boys) drink a soft drink every day. The figure is 32% among 11-year-old girls and 38% among 11-year-old boys, along with 39% of 15-year-old girls and 43% of 15-year-old boys. Almost half (47%) of boys and over a third (36%) of girls aged 13 go without breakfast as do 29% of 11-year-old girls and 26% of 11-year-old boys. The figure is even higher among 15-year-olds, with 57% of girls and 38% of boys going without breakfast.

Most (80%) children aged five to 15 are not eating the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day, with the figure being 83% among 15-year-olds. Most (85%) of girls and 73% of boys aged 13 do not do the recommended one hour of physical activity a day compared with 20% of 11-year-old girls and 33% of 11-year-old boys.

Almost three-quarters of 13-year-olds (68% of girls and 74% of boys) watch at least two hours of TV on a weekday, as do 60% of 11-year-old girls and 64% of 11-year-old boys. Overall, around a quarter of children aged two to 15 spend at least six hours every weekend day being inactive.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the BHF, said: "These figures are a warning that many of our children are in grave danger of developing coronary heart disease in the future if they continue to live the same lifestyle. This is simply unacceptable."

The charity is expanding its Hearty Lives programme by committing £1.2 million to fund seven new community projects.

Mr Gillespie said: "The projects, run in partnership with local authorities, the NHS and non-profit organisations, will use a range of interventions to help. These include employing a dietitian to work with children struggling with obesity in Manchester and running weight management programmes for teenagers in Scotland. Through our new Hearty Lives projects we are committed to working with local communities to give young people most at risk of heart disease a healthier start in life."

The report was produced in partnership with the BHF health promotion research group at Oxford University.


From Belfast Telegraph