Minister was wrong to say obese children come from poorer homes

Children from middle-class families are generally fatter than their poorer counterparts, according to new research.

The results undermine claims from the Health minister, Anna Soubry, that an "abundance of bad food" due to a culture of TV dinners meant children from less wealthy households were more likely to be obese.

A study of thousands of children in Leeds showed that those from areas with mid-level incomes were generally fatter than those from poorer – or richer – backgrounds.

The research involved more than 13,000 children aged 11 and 12, and examined the correlation between obesity and where they lived. The link was found to be most prevalent among girls. The authors of the study by Leeds Metropolitan University, which was published in The International Journal of Obesity, said the evidence appears to reject the "deprivation theory".

"Although the prevalence of obesity is higher than desirable across the whole city, it appears that children living in the most deprived and most affluent areas of the city are at the lowest risk, with boys and girls following different patterns," said Dr Claire Griffiths who headed the research team.

"These results could help make informed decisions at the local level including the allocation of health promotion resources. This is especially important now in the light of the recently enhanced role for local governments and authorities with an increased focus on locally led action in the UK to tackle childhood obesity."