Child obesity 'has peaked'

The 30-year rise in child obesity may have peaked, researchers report. The increase in overweight and obesity among children which has continued without pause since the mid-1970s is now on a downward trajectory, according to latest figures.

The forecast number of overweight girls aged 2 to 11 in 2020 has dropped from 34 per cent to 17 per cent, and the proportion of obese girls from 14 per cent to 10 per cent.

Among boys, the forecast number of overweight is down from 22 per cent to 17 per cent, and for the obese it is down from 20 per cent to 13 per cent.

The pounds are also slipping off teenagers. Among 12 to 19 year olds, the forecast number of obese girls in 2020 is down from 30 per cent to 9 per cent and obese boys are down from 25 per cent to 18 per cent. There are similar falls in overweight teenagers.

The revised forecasts, by researchers from the University of Oxford led by Professor Klim Mcpherson, are based on the annual health survey for 2007, one of the most comprehensive health surveys in the world. The original forecasts, made by the same team, were based on the 2004 health survey and published as part of the Foresight report on obesity in 2007, which called for changes to the environment, to reduce calorie consumption and increase activity to curb expanding waistlines.

Tim Marsh, associate director of the National Heart Forum, and a member of the research team, said the findings were good news. “This is the first indicator of a positive change in the [upward] trend [in child obesity]. It is certainly not going up as much as we said in the Foresight report two years ago. It is positive - how positive only time will tell.”

It was essential to curb overweight and obesity in childhood because, once gained, weight was much harder to lose later on.

Dr Marsh said the study could not answer why obesity was falling but there were a number of factors that could be responsible.

“We think it is a combination of changing attitudes - obesity is now recognised to be a serious health problem - and changes in government policy. A significant amount has happened since 2004.”

Traffic light food labelling to help parents choose healthier foods, the Sure Start scheme to give new parents support and improved breast feeding rates, which reduces the risk of obesity in later life, may all have contributed, he said.

Chance fluctuations in the figures from year to year could account for some, but not all, of the change, he said. “As the change is so great, it is unlikley to be due solely to changes in the data,” he said.

Professor Klim McPherson said that although the figures presented a “more postive picture” of obesity, they were still worrying.

“The prevalence, and current trends, of excess weight are still unacceptably high and these figures should not be taken as an argument for complacency. The Government needs to keep up the work they are doing to tackle obesity.”

Gillian Merron, public health minister, said 1.5 million children and 25 million adults in Britain were overweight or obese.

“Obesity is one of the biggest health challenges we face. The encouraging news that child obesity may be levelling off is thanks to the hard work of families, schools and the NHS across England. But obesity levels are still too high and we need to keep the momentum going.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

    £20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

    Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis