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Childhood obesity: a weight on the nation

Press release issued: 13 March 2005

The full picture of childhood obesity - and its long term consequences for the NHS - will be spelled out by scientists meeting in Bristol this week.

The full picture of childhood obesity – and its long-term consequences for the NHS - will be spelled out by scientists meeting in Bristol this week.

As part of National Science Week, three leading researchers have agreed to reveal some of their latest work in an open forum highlighting one of the biggest health problems for doctors in the 21st century.  

Dr Andy Ness from the University of Bristol said: “The rise in obesity in our population is a major public health problem that has serious implications for our health now and in the future.

“It is well-known that there is a connection between obesity and a range of illnesses like diabetes or blood pressure.  What hasn’t always been appreciated is the association with a range of other diseases too, from depression and arthritis to cancer and heart attacks.

“If you are overweight – you are more likely to fall seriously ill.  As the population gets fatter - this will have dire consequences for the National Health Service and for hospitals and public resources 20 years from now.”

As part of the Children of the 90s project, Dr Ness and his colleagues have been trying to identify which children are at greatest risk of obesity and, eventually how it can be prevented.

Research has suggested that the rising obesity rate is not simply because people eat more.  Scientists think that while energy intakes have not increased that much – levels of activity have declined.

Data from the Children of the 90s study show that even at the age of two, six per cent of the Bristol children were classified as obese, with the figure rising slowly as the children grew older.

Preliminary findings show that children whose mothers smoke in pregnancy are almost twice as likely to be obese.  And if both your parents are obese – you are ten times more likely to be obese by the age of seven.        

Dr Ness said: “Our analysis also suggests that time spent watching TV is associated with increased risk of obesity, and not surprisingly, so is a less healthy diet, but we are looking at a range of different factors which might play a part.

“This research is important.  If we are going to do something to head off the Obesity Epidemic, we have got to know exactly why it is happening, and what we can do - as individuals and as a country.  Children of the 90s is right at the forefront of the research.”

Also speaking at the forum, on Tuesday March 15, is Dr Julian Shield, Senior Lecturer in Child Health who runs one of the country’s few Childhood Obesity Clinics at the Bristol Children’s Hospital, and Professor Chris Riddoch, Head of the London Sport Institute at Middlesex University, who is leading a four-year study of Bristol children into the role of physical activity in the development of childhood obesity

Childhood obesity: a weight on the nation is on March 15 at 7.30 pm in the Reception Room at the Wills Memorial Building, Queen’s Road, Bristol.  There will be an open discussion afterwards.  The meeting is open to everyone and admission is free.  

The event is being run by the British Association for the Advancement of Science in conjunction with the University of Bristol and the Institute of Biology.
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