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One third overweight at 11

Friday December 11th, 2009

Nearly one third of British pupils are overweight when they reach the age to leave primary school, according to figures published yesterday.

The figures led to the British government to claim to be winning the fight against childhood obesity - as the numbers are the same as the previous year.

But campaigners said the numbers still pose a major threat to the nation's health.

The figures show that 18.3 per cent of these children were obese.

Amongst children starting school, some 22.8 per cent were overweight or obese, according to the NHS Information Centre.

Public health minister Gillian Merron said: "Evidence is stacking up to show that child obesity is levelling off.

"This is thanks to the hard work of families, schools and the NHS across England, supported by Government initiatives such as Change4Life and Healthy Schools, and action from industry and local communities."

As part of school programmes, parents now get letters telling them about their child's rate. The government says this is encouraging some to make changes.

Ann Stubbs, a mother from Walsall, said: "As a family, we are now trying to take more exercise together. We go walking, swimming and bike riding and I am not buying chocolate any more.

"The kids have a choice of fruit and yoghurt for dessert and fruit for snacks."

But Betty McBride, of the British Heart Foundation, said tougher measures could be taken, including restrictions on junk food adverts on television.

She said: "The fact more than one fifth of children are obese before they start school is a shocking reality, especially as childhood obesity can lead to health problems in later life including heart disease, the UK's biggest killer.

"While the desire to stop the clock on this ticking time bomb is there, it needs to be backed up by actions if it is to have any impact.

"We must create an environment in which it's easier for families to make informed healthier choices. A ban on junk food TV advertising prior to 9pm, and the introduction of a simple, colour-based food labelling system that clearly helps parents make healthy food choices would be a positive step in the right direction."

Information centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: "The study shows that the number of children starting their school life either overweight or obese is just over one in five and that it is even higher in Year 6 where nearly one in three pupils is either overweight or obese.

"These findings echo very closely the picture that emerged from last year's study. They highlight the scale of obesity among some of our young children - something which may affect their future health."

Tags: Child Health | Diet & Food | Fitness | Heart Health | UK News

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