Obesity reaching ‘dangerous levels’ in one in ten young children

Childhood obesity is on the rise, with almost one in ten children aged four and five hitting dangerously overweight levels, figures show.


Childhood obesity is on the rise, with almost one in ten children aged four and five hitting dangerously overweight levels, figures show.

Picture: iStock

Data from NHS Digital shows that obesity among children in the first year of primary school in England has risen for a second year in a row.

Some 9.6% of children in reception classes in 2016-17 were obese, up from 9.3% the year before.

Deprived areas most affected

Deprived areas of the country are particularly affected, with more than double the number of obese children compared with that in more affluent areas.

For all children in the last year of primary school (Year 6, ages 10 and 11), one in five are obese – a figure that has remained stable since last year.

Public Health England chief nutritionist Alison Tedstone said: ‘Children deserve a healthy future and these figures are a reminder that addressing childhood obesity requires urgent action.

‘There is no single solution to reverse what’s been decades in the making. We need sustained actions to tackle poor diets and excess calorie intakes.

‘We’re working with industry to make food healthier, we’ve produced guidance for councils on planning healthier towns, and we’ve delivered campaigns encouraging people to choose healthier food and lead healthier lives.’


The data, drawn from more than one million pupils at schools across England, show that, at reception, 22.1% of girls and 23.1% of boys are either overweight or obese.

In Year 6, 32.4% of girls and 36.1% of boys are either overweight or obese.

When it comes to obesity alone, there are also large regional differences. For example, just 4.8% of reception children in Kingston upon Thames, London, are obese, compared with 13.5% in Wolverhampton.

In Year 6 ,11.3% of pupils in Rutland are obese, a figure rising to 29.2% in Barking and Dagenham, London.

Restrict junk food marketing

Caroline Cerny, lead of the Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of more than 40 organisations including charities, said: ‘The government says that tackling obesity is a priority.

‘The soft drinks levy and the sugar reduction programme are positive steps. But a commitment to tackling obesity means getting to grips with the environment in which our children grow up.

‘Adverts for unhealthy foods have a significant impact on consumption habits, and we want to see immediate action to restrict junk food marketing at children, online and on TV before the 9pm watershed.

‘Failing to tackle obesity means failing our children, and if today's figures tell us anything, it’s that there's a long way to go before the battle is won.’

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