British children's waistlines growing by an inch each decade, study shows

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Children's waist sizes are expanding by an inch each decade, prompting warnings from health experts that they face a future of serious health problems, such as heart disease, as a result.

Children's waist sizes are expanding by an inch each decade, prompting warnings from health experts that they face a future of serious health problems, such as heart disease, as a result.

New research based on 3,000 children shows that waist sizes in children as young as six have increased substantially over the past 10 years, with the biggest changes in girls aged two to three, whose waists have grown by 5.2 per cent.

"These findings should urge healthcare agencies and schools to continue to work vigorously towards promoting healthier lifestyles, including increased physical activity particularly for young children,'' say the researchers, reporting in the latest issue of the International Journal of Obesity.

The researchers added: "Although British children are getting heavier, they also appear to be depositing more fat centrally. This is of concern, as central adiposity is associated with raised levels of cardiovascular risk factors in childhood, adolescence and adulthood."

The results show that the largest percentage increase in waist circumference was in girls with an average age of two and a half. It went up by 5.2 per cent or 2.5 centimetres. Boys of the same age increased by 4.1 per cent.

Girls with an average age of three and a half went up by 3.8 per cent.

In the study, researchers from the Institute of Child Health, University of Bristol and London Metropolitan University compared the waist circumference and Body Mass Index (BMI) of children of the same age taken 10 years apart, starting with data from 1989. BMI is a measure of general fatness and takes into account weight and height.

Although boys in the latest survey had the larger absolute waist circumference measurements, the differences over time were greater for the girls.

Some experts blamed the lack of exercise for the increasing waist sizes. "It is possible that low levels of physical activity may be linked specifically to increases in central fat rather than total body fat," the study reported.

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