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Obesity Established Before Five


Wednesday, December 24th, 2008 Obesity Established Before Five

Recent studies suggest childhood obesity is established before the age of five. This information will be passed to ministers today. With reference to a BBC article (17 12 08).

In comparison to children of the eighties, today’s youngsters are heavier. More significantly evidence suggests that their excess weight occurs before the age of five.

Thus compounding the need to engage in initiatives to prevent childhood obesity before school.

Furthermore it has been acknowledged that one in four children aged four to five in England are overweight, latest figures show.

Moreover the research carried out by the EarlyBird Diabetes study of 233 children from birth to puberty is being published in the journal Pediatrics.

In evaluating the content of the survey there is a need to address some of the key facts as obesity in children has been classified as a disease of our time.

Firstly, from birth, the youngsters in the research conducted were of similar weight to babies 25 years ago, but had gained more fat by puberty compared with children of the same age in the 1980s.

Research shows that the mass of excessive was actually reached before the children were five.

Importantly, one has to consider that at this point Weight at five years bore little relation to birth weight, but closely predicted weight at nine years old.

Nonetheless it has been suggested that before an obese girl reaches school age she will have already gained 90% of her excess weight, and boys will have gained 70% of their excess weight.

Alarmingly, Professor Terry Wilkin, lead researcher, of the Peninsula Medical School, Plymouth, said: “When they reach the age of five the die seems to be cast, at least until the age of puberty.

What is causing it is very difficult to know.”

He further added that there is potentially a factor that did not exist 25 years ago which is making today’s children obese.

What is relevant is the fact that given the young age of these youngsters, then causation is likely to be from the home rather than school. However from the evidence of this report, the survey is not inclusive of those youngsters attending nursery schools and other agencies. Thus there is an air of scepticism.

Physical exercise has not been blamed for the weight gain Wilkin argues “”It is entirely possible that the calorie density of food and portion sizes could be higher.”

With this in mind a report by the BBC on (04 09 08) argues that childhood obesity in Scotland particularly is not being addressed in the way it deserves.

The BMA said one in five primary one pupils were categorised as overweight in 2006-07, while 8.5% and 4.3% were classed as obese and severely obese.

Ministers have said that NHS boards will be given £19m over three years to help children.

The BMA express concerns in that there is a lack of detail on counteracting this huge problem. They also recommend ministers to focus on five key areas- nutrition in schools; exercise; the media and advertising; food labelling and health claims and the role of health professionals.

Dr Dean Marshall, chair of the BMA’s Scottish General Practitioners committee, said: “Childhood obesity rates in Scotland are worryingly high.

Worryingly, the highest levels of overweight, obese and severely obese children were found in the most deprived areas.

“We are in danger of raising a generation of children burdened with long term chronic health conditions,” Dr Marshall said.

“Doctors have a role to play in supporting overweight patients and talking about the dangers of obesity but there is a limit to what they can do.” Thus there are complexities surrounding deprivation that compound the existing problems.

Public Health Minister Shona Robinson said: “We are determined to stop the problem of obesity in its tracks, by supporting new mums, babies and all young people to develop healthy eating and active living habits that last a lifetime.

Moving on and addressing the strategies in the prevention of childhood obesity and the eradication of other associated health problems. It may be pertinent to focus specifically on pre-school children. As Professor Wilkin suggests there has been a lot of focus on school meals, PE time, school runs, television viewing and computer games in the development of childhood obesity, but these are all issues for school age children.

But he said the mandatory measurement of the height and weight of all children in England on school entry at the age of four or five could be helpful, not only as a record of national obesity trends, but also as a pointer to future risk for the individual child.

Notwithstanding The Chief Medical Officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson strongly suggests soaring rates of obesity as “an impending crisis”. In addition he further argues that “We need to get in early and build the foundations to healthy living from a very early stage.”

However, he added: “It is never too late. Obesity is one of the few serious medical problems that can be reversed very, very quickly.”

Finally, David Haslam, of the National Obesity Forum, said: “It is never too late or too early to intervene. The earlier the better in terms of long-term outlook.”

He said early childhood obesity was likely to be down to environment and learned behaviours.

The BMA said more than 40 people are diagnosed with diabetes in Scotland every day and most of these cases are Type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked with obesity.

It has been estimated that the NHS spends around £2bn in the UK per annum in treating ill health caused by poor diet.

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