Childhood Obesity: It is estimated that around 8% of Irish children are obese. Exact statistics about this are not available but a recent National Health & Lifestyle Surveys 2002 found that 13% (7% of boys and 18% of girls) of 10 to 11 year-old girls reported being on a weight reducing diet and an additional 22% reported that they need to lose weight. These percentages increased across the age groups. This study also found that the average Irish schoolchild eats 50% less fruit and vegetables than they did five years ago, and that they spend 15 hours a week watching television. The medical director of VHI Healthcare described the issue of childhood obesity in Ireland as a health 'time bomb' and said that it was storing up problems for future healthcare provision (Medicine Weekly). People who develop obesity in childhood are at increased risk of a number of other illnesses and conditions in later life, including cardiovascular problems, cancers, type 2 diabetes and respiratory problems, it is time to treat the condition as a chronic illness in the same way as asthma (Irish Medical Times May 2, 2003).

Waist circumference in young people has risen more steeply over the past 10 to 20 years than body mass index, particularly in girls, a new study has found. In the study, researchers obtained data for height, weight, and waist circumference, collected from surveys of young people over the past 10-20 years in Britain . The findings suggested that the accumulation of central body fat has risen more steeply than whole body fatness based on weight and height, the researchers reported. In such circumstances, body mass index has systematically underestimated the prevalence of obesity in young people, the researchers concluded (BMJ 2003;326:624-626).

Many parents are now concerned about their children's weight and wonder if their children are overweight or is it only puppy fat? If you are concerned if your child's weight is above the ideal weight you should check with your child's doctor as BMI is not always an accurate way to measure the right weight for children. We usually use growth charts for height and weight and compare these to BMI to calculate the ideal weight. If a child is more than 40% overweight a physician should guide the weight loss program. Children need adequate nutrition as they develop physically and mentally. Long-term weight loss maintenance has to be the goal from the beginning. Don't wait for a child to reach their teens before taking action. A fat child risks staying fat throughout adulthood!