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Third of European children are obese, warns report

By Mike Stones , 07-Jun-2010

More than one third of European children are obese or overweight, according to the latest report from research organisation Datamonitor.

The report, Kids Nutrition: New Perspectives and Opportunities, attributes the problem to rising prosperity.

“With prosperity increasing globally, there has been an increased propensity for kids to over indulge, leading to the numbers of overweight children rising alarmingly,” write the report’s authors.

The UK Food Standard's Agency (FSA) defines obesity as occurring when people have: “…have put on weight to the point that it could seriously endanger their health. This is caused by a combination of eating too many calories and not doing enough physical activity.”

Although Europe and the Americas are identified as exhibiting the world’s high levels of childhood obesity, other regions are also showing alarming increases. “While kids' obesity levels are less severe in Asia Pacific and the MEA (Middle Eastern and African countries), levels in these countries are growing year on year,”

Overweight children

The availability and diversity of children' food and drinks has never been higher, with a continuous supply of new products launched in many regions around the world fueling generations of obese or overweight children.

Covering the consumption patterns of 5-13 year olds and their parents, the report focuses on: France, Germany, Italy, NL, Russia, Spain, Sweden, UK, US, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea, China, India, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and South Africa.

Of particular concern is children’s high consumption of carbonated beverages together snackable foodstuffs despite efforts to limit consumption. Bakery and cereals are most popular among children in Europe and the Middle East.

Manufacturers are attempting to boost the healthiness of their children’s foods by developing products with a high fruit content, said the report.

Meanwhile, in the UK, about 27 per cent of children are now overweight, according to BBC research.

In 2007, 17 per cent of boys aged 2 to 15, and 16 per cent of girls were classed as obese, an increase from 11 per cent and 12 per cent respectively in 1995, according to the UK National Health Service.

The International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) recommends co-ordinated action to remedy rising obesity levels. “Interventions at the family or school level will need to be matched by changes in the social and cultural context so that the benefits can be sustained and enhanced,” according to IASO.

Food processors

“Such prevention strategies will require a coordinated effort between the medical community, health administrators, teachers, parents, food producers and processors, retailers and caterers, advertisers and the media, recreation and sport planners, urban architects, city planners, politicians and legislators’.

Obesity increases the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes; normally a disease associated with older adults. But more children in their teens are now developing type 2 diabetes due to obesity.

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