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Children becoming obese at a younger age PDF Print Email

New research from University College London has produced figures that show children in the UK are becoming obese at a younger age.  The average age at which people become obese is decreasing.  The researchers looked at over 56,000 people born between 1946 and 2001 in Britain.  They found a clear pattern of people becoming fatter more often and at an earlier age.  One possible positive from the latest research is that obesity appears to be stabilising among the under 10’ age group.


Obese children often go on to become obese adults and suffer from many of the associated problems such as diabetes and heart disease.


The research was carried out by Professor Rebecca Hardy and her team who published their findings in PLOS Medicine.  They studied five generations. For men, the first post-war babies didn’t become overweight until they reached around 40 years of age.  The next two generations of male babies became fatter younger, at an average of 33 and 30 respectively.


The trend was the same for women.  The third generation of babies born in the 70’s were overweight by 41 on average, compared with 48 for those born in 1946 and 44 for those bron in 1958.


By the fourth generation for both sexes, obesity was becoming common in childhood.

Children born since the 1980s are up to three times more likely to be overweight or obese by the age of 10 than previous generations.

Worringly, a fifth of children joining primary school in England are now obese or overweight.


Prof Hardy said: "Our work shows this coincided with the onset of an obesogenic environment in the 1980s, where there was easy access to high-calorie food.

"The onset of obesity has been getting earlier and earlier and this does have implications if people are not losing that weight.

"Being overweight over a lifetime means you accumulate risks for things like heart disease and diabetes."


Eustace De Sousa, national lead for children, young people and families, at Public Health England, said: "Evidence shows that children of obese parents are much more likely to have weight problems, which is a major concern when almost two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese.

"Almost one in 10 children in Reception are obese - but what's even more shocking is that by the time they leave primary school, this doubles to nearly one in five."


If you are concerned about your or your child’s weight you should make an appointment at your GP.  Your local pharmacy can often be a good place to pop into for advice without an appointment too.