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Child obesity trends show need for action

Wednesday March 21st, 2018

Child obesity is now as much a poverty related problem in the UK as under-nutrition, researchers say today.

A new study traces how the change has come about since the post-war period - as food has become relatively cheaper and “less healthy”.

Dr David Bann of University College London, UK, and colleagues analysed figures on children's height and weight from 1953 to 2015. This showed that the difference in children's body mass index levels between the most and the least disadvantaged children has grown. But the difference in children's height has narrowed, with disadvantaged children less likely to be of short stature.

Full details appear today (21 March) in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The authors write: "These patterns highlight the powerful influence that the obesogenic environment has had on socioeconomically disadvantaged children, with and the failure of decades of previous policies to prevent obesity and related socioeconomic inequalities".

Dr Bann says: "Our findings illustrate a need for new effective policies to reduce obesity and its socioeconomic inequality in children in the UK. Previous policies have not been adequate, and existing policies are unlikely to be either.

“Without effective interventions, childhood body mass index inequalities are likely to widen further throughout adulthood, leading to decades of adverse health and economic consequences."

He adds: "Our results illustrate a need for strong additional legislative changes that focus on societal factors and the food industry, rather than individuals or families. Bold action is needed, such as creating further incentives for food manufacturers to reduce sugar and fat content in food and drinks, reduce the advertising of unhealthy foods to children and families, and incentivise the sale of healthier alternatives."

Bann, D. et al. Socioeconomic inequalities in childhood and adolescent body-mass index, weight, and height from 1953 to 2015: an analysis of four longitudinal, observational, British birth cohort studies. The Lancet Public Health 20 March 2018; doi: 10.1016/S2468-2667(18)30045-8

Link: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(18)30045-8/fulltext

Tags: Child Health | Diet & Food | UK News

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