Almost one child in four is either overweight or obese at age three, a UK-wide survey has found.
The study, the biggest-ever of its kind, measured the height and weight of 14,000 children aged three. Preliminary results reveal that 18 per cent were overweight and a further 5 per cent obese.
Researchers from the Institute of Child Health at University College London and the Institute of Education, University of London, found that boys and girls were equally likely to be overweight or obese.
Children in Northern Ireland and Wales were, on average, more likely to be overweight or obese than those living in England and Scotland. Children in less advantaged areas of England and Scotland were slightly more likely to be overweight or obese than those living in more advantaged areas.
There were marked differences between ethnic groups. Only 9 per cent of Indian children were overweight or obese compared with 23 per cent of White and 33 per cent of Black Caribbean children.
The research was carried out using data from the Millennium Cohort Study, which is tracking children born in the UK between 2000 and 2002.
Carol Dezateux, Professor of Paediatric Epidemiology at the Institute of Child Health, who led the team carrying out the analyses, emphasised the value of the nationwide evidence in the Millennium Cohort Study in helping to understand the origins of childhood obesity. Professor Dezateux said: “The finding that almost one quarter of three-year-olds living in the UK are obese or overweight is of great public health concern. These figures augment data from other recent smaller or more local UK surveys by providing unique information on the geographic and ethnic variation in childhood overweight and obesity. These findings will assist government in tackling childhood obesity by helping to inform public health policy.”