Saturday, February 13, 2010

Onset of obesity: overweight or obese II...

We've been here before. "Obesity 'often set before age of two'" [BBC]. Obesity is now recognised as a major public health issue and not a month goes by without some new study; this latest is from the US where it is reported that,

"of more than 100 obese children and teenagers found more than half were overweight by 24 months and 90% were overweight by the age of five."

It's not only the US: according to the World Health Organization the statistics of obesity in the whole of Europe (not just the EU) are staggering, reaching epidemic proportions. In only two decades this problem has trebled, and if no action is taken there will be an estimated 150 million obese adults (20% of the population) and 15 million obese children and adolescents (10% of the population) in the region by next year (2010). In most countries today, between 30% and 80% of adults are overweight. [EOD Link]

Clearly what happens in the first few years of life is important: general health and education tend to be dealt with reasonably effectively in most cases but weight tends to be ignored...ignored, not overlooked because it is noted but nothing is done. "Currently, it is estimated that one in three children in the UK will be overweight or obese by the time they reach year six." [Healthcare Republic]

We want GP practices to measure children for signs of obesity at eight months and then again at two years as part of the QOF

Last year there were reports that the Department of Health was considering assessing 2yr-old's growth as part of its Quality and Outcome Framework strategy but so far it hasn't happened: the target is to "Reduce the rate of overweight and obese children to 2000 levels by 2020..." but 'for the purposes of this childhood is defined as children age 2-10 years old, and "To demonstrate a reduction from the forecast rate [...] the prevalence of child obesity in under 11s needs to be a maximum of 18.1% by 2011." [HM Gov Delivery Agreement: PDF]. If it is estimated that currently one in three under six-year olds are overtweight or obese and that under two's aren't checked, then taking into account the recent research it seems this target is another that is already doomed to failure.

"Rapid weight gain in the first 12 months of life to increase risk of obesity at age 7"....but checks should start preconception (obviously not on the as yet uncreated child!) so says The Child Growth Foundation [CGF] and their approach: PDF

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Paul said...

This is a big problem (no pun intended) and something that needs addressing. The last time this came up, might have been your goodself, I visited the Heinz site and it made really depressing reading about levels of salt and sugar in food and what a big deal it was when they started selling beans with reduced sugar levels, it was as if they were saying, 'yes we've made three generations dependent on sugars and fats but we aren't the only ones.'

Germany now has a problem with obesity because the post-wall generation of what would have been East Germans are exposed to western diets - Poland is going the same way.

Span Ows said...

I agree and I wasn't really aiming to have a major dig at government (although I do like that sport) but the post does come across a bit like that as I read it back to myself today...what you say is perfectly true, the salt and sugar in most processed foods is so high as to be positively dangerous when daily intakes are looked at (the sugar is usually to hide the salt taste which is added to prolong shelf life!

Agree re Eastern Europeans too, before their diet wasn't brilliant but it was fairly balanced! I guess most third world countries will get their turn too. In South America it happens as soon as the family gets beyond a certain pay scale: when they're poor they eat less but better!