Is Childhood Obesity Epidemic a Myth?

THE childhood obesity epidemic sweeping the country is a myth, controversial research has claimed.

child obesity

child obesity

A study by the Democracy Institute, which was published yesterday, argues that there is a dearth of evidence to support claims the UK faces an epidemic of obese and overweight children.

And the researchers said there was little evidence to suggest obesity is caused by children eating too much or the wrong sorts of foods.

Academics Dr Patrick Basham and Dr John Luik also said there was no evidence of a link between obesity and food advertising.

The comments contradict official government and Assembly government policies designed to improve children’s health and reduce the number of obese and overweight children.

And they counter comments from Welsh dieticians who told the Western Mail they are treating obese two-year-olds fed a diet of their favourite foods.

Dr Luik, a senior fellow at the Democracy Institute, said: “There are substantial and well-evidenced doubts as to whether childhood obesity is a significant problem, whether in terms of numbers, risk to health either in childhood or adulthood, or in terms of reduced life expectancy.

“It’s tremendous irony that the Government’s claims about childhood obesity are not supported by the facts produced by the very same government.”

The pair’s research – Fat Kids? The Obesity Epidemic Myth – also pours doubts on links between obesity and diabetes, claiming that type 2 diabetes, which is generally accepted asadisease which affects overweight people, is genetic in origin.

Dr Basham, director of the Democracy Institute, said: “There simply is not a body of clinical evidence that shows that overweight and obese children have notably poorer health outcomes than other children.”

Official figures reveal that Wales has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world with 22% of 13-year-old boys and 16% of girls classed as either overweight or obese.

And there is evidence children are already suffering the long-term health consequences. At least 30 children in Wales have already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a condition normally associated with the overweight over-40s.

Dr Tony Jewell, Wales’ chief medical officer, said: “There is a general consensus from health professionals and academics across the world, that having a healthy lifestyle and diet have a positive impact on people’s health and well-being. Clearly, it is best to encourage people from a young age to develop good lifestyle habits that they can take into adulthood.

“Eating a healthy, balanced diet is only one factor in staying fit and healthy. It is also important to ensure children have more opportunities to undertake regular physical activity. That is why we have invested in, among other things, free swimming during school holidays. It is about making it easier for people to make healthy choices.”

Andy Misell, policy and public affairs manager for Diabetes UK Cymru, said: “This report highlights some important issues, but some of the conclusions are wide of the mark.

“It is very important that we discuss what sort of interventions are really likely to bring about long-term lifestyle changes and improved health, but simply denying the existence of the problem is not an option.

“Where work has been done in Wales to measure children’s body mass index, the clear indication is that levels of overweight and obesity are rising sharply.

“The researchers have also confused thing by focusing on the detrimental effects of dieting.

“Most people in the field of diabetes are agreed that short-term weight loss diets are less effective than real changes in eating and exercise patterns that people are able to sustain in the long term.

“Eating a healthy mix of foods, and balancing food intake with the amount of physical activity we do is the key to diabetes prevention and diabetes management.”

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