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
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
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: Area Sales Manager

    £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Freight Forward Senior Operator

    £22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This logistics firm are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: Lead Marketing Specialist

    £34500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A lead marketing specialist is required ...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician - 2nd / 3rd Line

    £26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Technician is req...

    Day In a Page

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map