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Children Eating Themselves into an Early Grave

Posted: Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Children are eating themselves into an early grave with hundreds of thousands of primary school pupils already suffering from chronic disease, a study has found.

Leading childhood obesity experts discovered more than 2.3 million children in the UK are overweight or obese and that many under-12s already show signs of high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and liver disease.

They said that the "wave" of "silent diseases" was so acute that it would lead to a whole generation having lower life expectancy than we see today.

Dr Tim Lobstein, the director of the Childhood Obesity Program at the International Association for the study for Obesity who compiled the report said, "It will be tragic if it is not tackled."

"You will see an increasing wave of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and liver problems…. It is a wave that is moving forward at an ever increasing rate because child obesity levels have never been higher.”

"Our kids are eating themselves into an early grave."

Dr Lobstein, a former director of the Food Commission, presented his findings to the European Congress on Obesity in Amsterdam.  He and his colleagues examined more than 150 studies on childhood obesity in Europe to come to their conclusions. He said a couch potato lifestyle and a growing appetite for junk food meant today's youngsters ran a real risk of being the first generation to die at an earlier age than their parents.

They found that of the 70 million five to 18 year olds in the EU more than five million were obese and 11 million overweight. Britain along with some southern European countries was top of the list, they said.

”The amount of fat and sugar in foods has increased in the last 20 years, we neglected school meals until the last five years, soft drink sales have never been higher, confectionary sales have rocketed. TV-watching is big and if you add computer games, videos and other sedentary media, exercise levels have fallen.”

Millions of those children were so overweight that they were already showing signs of chronic diseases which could lead to major problems in adulthood.

In the EU more than 560,000 had high blood pressure which equated to 80,000 in Britain - 60,000 of whom were under 12.

More than 640,000 primary school-aged children in Europe suffered from high cholesterol with 91,000 of those in Britain.

A further 640,000 in Europe suffered from Non Alcohol Fatty Liver Disease – more than 90,000 of those came from the UK.

Dr Lobstein said that unless the obesity epidemic was brought under control we are facing the prospect of medicating primary school children which would be "frightening…. The idea of medicating kids at primary school and for the rest of their life frightens me.”

"If we can just find a way of encouraging healthy growth then we can avoid an enormous amount of grief in the future."

Tam Fry, chair of the Child Growth Foundation, said the report highlighted "real dangers" facing society.

"We have to look far earlier than we are at the moment and put into place measures that increase the likelihood that children will be raised at a healthy rate," he said.

"Unless we start teaching our children in schools about raising children, feeding them properly, exercise and the difference between good and bad food, then we are just going to exacerbate the problem."

Source: Diabetes In Control: Reported at the International Association for the study for Obesity.

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