Girls as young five have ideas about dieting and are conscious of their weight, a conference on child nutrition was told yesterday.

Girls as young five have ideas about dieting and are conscious of their weight, a conference on child nutrition was told yesterday.

Professor Leann Birch, of Pennsylvania State University, told the Update on Childhood Nutrition Conference in Glasgow that half of a sample of five-year-old girls in central Pennsylvania were aware of the concept of dieting.

Professor Birch said parents should persist in feeding their children healthy foods which they might initially appear to dislike, and emphasised that youngsters should not be discouraged from eating junk food.

She called for a move away from the focus on genetic factors as the main cause of obesity and stressed that environmental issues such as parents and feeding practices play a crucial role.

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