Obesity gap widening, says new report

New figures exposing a growing obesity gender gap suggest that three in five boys born today in the least affluent parts of Britain will be overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school.

Levels of obesity among children have remained stubbornly high over the last decade, with a 42 per cent rise in cases over the last five years. In the last decade, over 1.6 million children have become overweight or obese by the time they left primary school.

Alarmingly, the new report by the Obesity Health Alliance has predicted that almost one million more will be added to their numbers in the next five years.

The coalition of 30 health charities and royal colleges further suggested that boys were more likely to ‘blindly buy’ into advertising concepts without thinking about the sugary content, whereas girls remained more diet conscious.

Three in five of the most deprived boys aged 5-11 are predicted to be overweight or obese by 2020, compared to just 16 per cent of boys in the most affluent group. The most deprived girls didn’t however show the same trend.

Robin Ireland, chief executive at charity the Health Equalities Group, a member of the Obesity Health Alliance, said: “These statistics show a major gender difference, especially when it comes to the least affluent groups.

“It seems that boys buy into brand loyalty more, buying blindly into what’s been presented to them, so if an energy drink links itself with skateboarding and adventures they buy into the idea. With girls they are often more diet and health conscious, and while that brings its own difficulties, it means they are more aware of what they are consuming.”

The report follows warnings of five million people due to be diagnosed with diabetes by 2020.

Chris Askew, chief executive at Diabetes UK, said: “Obesity is a major risk factor in developing Type 2 diabetes, and Type 2 accounts for 9 out of 10 diabetes cases. Treating diabetes and its complications already costs the health service £10 billion a year and the rising cost is placing huge pressure on the NHS.

“Not taking action now will result in the NHS forking out monumental amounts of money for largely preventable conditions. This is why it’s so important to implement the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, manufacture healthier food, and close the loopholes of junk food marketing to children today, so our future health, workforce, and NHS can stand a chance tomorrow.”