LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM. A team of researchers from the University of Liverpool reports that the number of overweight children (3 to 4 years old) has increased by 60 per cent during the period 1989 to 1998. During the same 10- year period the number of obese children increased by 70 per cent. The study involved a total of 36,000 infants and 29,000 children. Health authority visitors checked the weight, height and body mass index of the infants between the ages of 28 and 90 days and of children between the ages of 3 and 4 years. Measurements were made in 1989 and again in 1998. During the 10-year period the proportion of overweight children grew from 14.7 per cent to 23.6 per cent and the proportion of obese children from 5.4 per cent to 9.2 per cent. The increase was entirely attributable to weight gain; there was no significant change in average height. Infants showed a small, but statistically significant, increase in weight over the 10-year period.
Dr. William H. Dietz, a director at the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention in Atlanta (USA) comments on this disturbing trend. He points out
that overweight children are at increased risk for obesity, heart disease, and
diabetes later in life and that 30 per cent of all new cases of type 2 diabetes,
which was previously rare in children and adolescents, are now found in this age
group. Dr. Dietz feels that the increased consumption of fast foods, pre-
prepared meals, and soft drinks combined with a decrease in physical activity is
to blame for the "obesity epidemic". He also makes this interesting
observation, "In early childhood, the more parents encourage children to eat
certain foods the less likely they are to do so. Thus, foods that have been
forbidden may be over-consumed when children finally have access to them."