The King’s College London researchers have found that childhood overweight and obesity steadily increased in England between 1994-2003, and has stabilised in the past decade.
Children’s Food Trust Head of Nutrition, Dr Patricia Mucavele, said: “Childhood overweight and obesity remains a high public health priority. As the researchers state monitoring and understanding trends in childhood obesity is important for informing policy initiatives. Although this study and other national surveys have suggested a levelling off of increases in child obesity, we still have one in four children aged between 4-5 years diagnosed as overweight or obese which increases to one in three by age 10-11 years. This is a real concern.
“Obese children are more likely to be ill, be absent from school due to illness, experience health-related limitations and require more medical care than normal weight children. Overweight and obese children are also more likely to become obese adults, and have a higher risk of morbidity, disability and premature mortality in adulthood due to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.
“Supportive policies, environments, schools and communities are fundamental in shaping children’s choices, making the healthier choice of foods and regular physical activity accessible, available and affordable – thereby preventing obesity.
“There are stark inequalities in levels of child obesity, with prevalence among children in the most deprived areas being double that of those children in the least deprived areas.
“We are one of the many organisations who are working towards ensuring that all children, despite their circumstances or background, have access to nutritious food, which is why initiatives such as the government’s Universal Infant Free School Meals policy are so important.
“We believe that schools and other educational settings such as nurseries have a crucial role to play in developing healthy eating habits from an early age and by ensuring food and drinks provided are healthy, balanced and nutritious.
“The new school food standards and the Voluntary Food and Drink Guidelines for Early Years Settings in England help to limit the provision of high saturated fat, sugar and salt foods, and increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, across the day.
“The high prevalence of children currently diagnosed as overweight and obese suggests that there is still a lot we all need to do to protect and improve the health and wellbeing of children.”