Cancer charity warns overweight children face long-term health risks

Many young children in Scotland are piling on the pounds, putting their long-term health at risk.
Many young children in Scotland are piling on the pounds, putting their long-term health at risk.

A cancer charity has expressed concerns over the number of overweight and obese children – stressing they are facing long-term health risks.

The latest ISD Scotland statistics show that more than a one in five children (22 per cent) in primary one in Scotland were found to be at risk of being overweight or obese.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, based at the University of Edinburgh, described the figures as “shocking”.

She added: “Obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, so tackling this is crucial if we’re to improve the health of future generations.”

As well as the cancer risk, overweight and obesity in childhood is associated with a wide range of other health problems such heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, emotional distress and mental health difficulties.

In addition, overweight and obese children are at risk of remaining overweight or obese as adults.

Since 2001/02, the overall proportion of P1 children who are at risk of overweight or obesity has remained fairly constant.

However, there are now substantial inequalities in child unhealthy weight across Scotland.

Since 2001/02, the proportion of P1 children at risk of overweight or obesity has increased in the most deprived areas but decreased in the least deprived areas.

Children living in more deprived areas were more than twice as likely to be at risk of obesity than children living in the least deprived areas.

Boys in P1 are slightly less likely than girls to have a healthy weight.

Professor Bauld believes there were step that should be taken to tackle overweight and obesity in children.

“The Scottish Government has a role to play here,” she said.

“It must ensure planned legislation to restrict junk food promotions is introduced and passed before the next Scottish Parliament elections.

“Our shopping environment has a big influence on what we buy with special offers and multibuys on junk food powerfully persuading us to stock up on unhealthy items.”