Obesity kills 450 a year in North - Study

Obesity is responsible for 450 deaths in the North every year, it was claimed today.

It is also costing the economy as much as £500m (€630m) a year and with the problem among children and adults at epidemic proportions on both sides of the border, health experts warned the rate could increase by one per cent every 12 months.

New research disclosed that 11% of children between five and 12 years of age are overweight, with 11% of those categorised as obese.

The Health Promotion Agency/Health Service Executive survey claimed that a majority of mothers of overweight children believed their weight was fine. But those who realised there was a problem, felt overwhelmed and the challenge too great to tackle.

Six in 10 parents found it a struggle to get their children to eat healthy food, according to the findings carried out for safefood, the cross-border food safety promotion board.

Dr Brian Gaffney, chief executive of the HPA, said parents needed to lead by example: “Children’s eating habits and their attitudes to physical activity can be shaped and influenced by their parents and those around them.”

While the survey claimed that seven in ten parents agreed their own eating and exercising habits influenced their children, just one in ten made any changes and almost half admitted to preparing separate meals for their kids.

Dr Cliodhna Foley Nolan, director of human health and nutrition of safefood, said changes needed to start at the dinner table.

She said: “Over half of all parents believe that their children should eat all the food on their plate, but children are the best judges of when they are full.

“We would encourage parents to be aware of portion sizes and the smaller appetites of thier children.

She added: “What is concerning is the fact that over four in ten parents reward their children for eating all the food on thier plate and this only serves to exacerbate the problem.”

The survey also revealed that even though eight out of ten parents believed their children got the recommended one hour of exercise a day, only three out of ten put in the 60 minutes, despite the fact that 85% of children enjoyed physical activity.

Details of the scale of the problems were announced today as the HPA, HSE and safefood launched a major campaign to educate people on how to combat obesity.

Entitled ’Little Steps Go a Long Way’, the cross-border initiative will use TV and radio advertising to make people aware of how small lifestyle changes can have a big impact on health.

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