Over one-in-10 Welsh children starting school obese

Nathan Hewitt was a 23st teenager in Merthyr and is now coaching on weight loss Nathan Hewitt was a 23st teenager in Merthyr and is now coaching on weight loss

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More than a quarter of Wales' four and five-year-olds are overweight - with more than one in 10 classed as obese, say public health officials.

Merthyr Tydfil tops the league for weight issues in young children, with 34% regarded as overweight.

Public Health Wales looked at the Body Mass Index (BMI) of just over 1,000 children starting primary school - with a BMI over 25 considered unhealthy.

Across Wales, 26% were over that BMI - while in England it was just 22%.

The average figures for Wales are also higher than the worst region of England - which is the north-east, where 24% of four and five-year-olds have slipped into the overweight BMI zone.

Linda Bailey from Public Health Wales says cutting food treats could help tackle child obesity

However, this year's statistics are a slight improvement on last year, when the first BMI survey was published by Public Health Wales (PHW).

PHW consultant Linda Bailey said it was not too late to tackle the problem.

"Simple and easy steps such as replacing fizzy drinks with water, and snacking on fruit instead of chocolate or crisps are the answer for many children this age," she said.

Obese children (actors, cleared stock photos) Children sitting inactive for hours is one of the issues say experts


Leading specialist Dr Nadim Haboubi, chairman of National Obesity Forum Wales, bemoans young children not being involved in activities.

"Children have computer games, iPads and they sit there for hours," he told BBC Wales.

"Unlike perhaps when we were children, there's also a genuine fear it's unsafe for young children to be outside playing, unsupervised.

"They eat too much junk food and now in the school holidays you can see them in burger restaurants from the morning onwards - the places are packed.

"I drive from home to work and there are seven 24-hour burger restaurants but no leisure centres open until late."

"Sweets when I was growing up were a treat, something you had at Christmas or special occasions, now they're given out as rewards.

"You've got to detect problems at an early age, so it's down to the parents. Obesity can keeping getting worse like a cancer unless you manage it.

"But for those in deprived areas, healthy food is not very affordable either for a lot of people."

Info graphic The darker coloured areas of the map show the greatest proportion of overweight children

Obesity levels are significantly higher than average in Merthyr, Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf, and significantly lower in Monmouthshire, Conwy and the Vale of Glamorgan.

'Big excuse'

Nathan Hewitt, from Quaker's Yard near Merthyr, once weighed 23 stone aged 15 - after having ballooned from the age of 10.

Now aged 24, he is 12 stone and a weight loss coach.

He argues that healthy food is within reach of people even under a tight budget.

"Cost is a big excuse," he said. "You can buy healthy ingredients and cook healthy meals cheaply. It's really about convenience. It's easier for people just to go out and buy chips."

He added: "I don't blame my parents for what happened to me. Between the age of 10 and 13 I was fully aware of what I was doing - I was eating for pure pleasure.

"But then there was the vicious circle of eating because I was unhappy and unhappy because I was overweight.

"It's no good telling young children to stop eating - you need to give them a goal to work towards. Losing weight doesn't need to be a chore - there can be something good at the end of it."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Fat is a sign of wealth. Indolent and more to eat than they need. Right through to affording those gaming devices. Cut back benefits, child allowance, tax credits etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    This is even more worrying than it seems.
    The *number* of fat cells in the body is determined at an early age (mostly up to 2 years), and this number in turn sets the weight that your body tries to aim for. Dieting does not cut down the *number* of fat cells, only their size. So if you are obese by the time you are 5 your fate is largely sealed.

    Added sugar in baby formula is relevant here!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    It does not help when nearly every swimming poll / leisure centre in the counties of Wrexham and Denbighshire closes due to budget cuts. I grew up using the facilities there and I have seen a massive decline in the services provided. I would also argue that the cost of food (such as vegetables, fruit, fish and meats) is too expensive and production should be cheapened. Also a daily hour of PE...

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    In the summer it's easy to say get outside and play in the green fields. But summer in Wales is a few weeks a year. Problem is what to do with the kids in the winter (when parents will keep the kids inside watching TV), schools are doing less and less after schools clubs that involve sports and exercise. Leisure Centres are closing down left right and centre, and hardly surprising due to cost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    In Britain, a woman pops out a baby they are allocated a healthworker thingy, women also take their babys to be regularly checked/weighed

    The contact of state health authoritys with women & babys is common practise yet why are they failing so much to educate & inform mothers/parents of RESPONSIBILITIES & DIETS etc & doing spit all to catch/prevent EARLY negligence of parental responsibilitys


Comments 5 of 38


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