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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Struck by a stroke at age SIX: Obesity epidemic fuelled by parents feeding children pureed junk food

By Daily Mail Reporter

Outsize portion: Some parents encourage children to eat junk food, seeing a family excursion to a pizza parlour or hamburger restaurant as a treat

An epidemic of obesity is leading to babies being treated in hospital for weight problems - and children as young as six are suffering strokes.

By the time they leave primary school, one in three children is classified as clinically obese.

And health experts put the blame squarely on parents. Entire families have been sent on courses to learn about healthy eating and receive advice on how to feed children.

A survey covering less than half of Britain's acute hospitals revealed more than 5,500 children under 16 were seen doctors for clinical obesity in the past five years.

Four hundred of those were under the age of five, and at least 40 of them were under one year old.

Specialists say they are seeing one year-olds who weigh as much as three stone, twice the normal weight at that age.

Doctors say much of the problem is caused by parents who wean their babies off milk while they are too young and also feed them inappropriate foods, even mashing up high-salt, high-fat takeaways such as burgers and chips as baby food.

Paul Sacher, of the British Dietetic Association and chief research officer for MEND, a charity that runs obesity treatment and prevention programmes, said many parents simply did not know what they should be feeding their children.

He was the child health consultant for Jamie Oliver's Return to Jamie's School Dinners.

He said: 'I see children all the time who are being given a lolly, a chocolate bar or packet of crisps. I see mums pouring fizzy pop into their baby's bottles and in parts of Wales they put chips in milk in bottles.'

In one case a 15 year-old who weighed more than 25 stone was treated at a hospital in North Staffordshire before her family took her to Mexico to have a gastric band fitted.

Many children are suffering weight related diseases that normally appear in later life such as breathing difficulties, diabetes, and a six year-old and an eight year-old suffered strokes believed to be caused by the stress on their bodies caused by their weight.

Worryingly, public health experts warn that because hospitals only see the most extreme cases, the true levels of obesity among babies and young children will be far higher.

The figures were released by 66 of Britain's 168 acute hospital trusts under the Freedom of Information Act.

Forty-four of the hospital trusts contacted provided figures for diagnosis and treatment broken down by age. Four hundred children under five were treated in hospital after being diagnosed with clinical obesity. These included 40 children under one, 49 one year-olds and 85 two year-olds.

Dr Ken Ong, clinical lead for childhood obesity at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, said: 'I certainly see children under the age of two years old. We are seeing more and more referrals in that age range.

'The one and two year-olds we see are massively obese but it is only the very extreme who are coming to hospital clinics. There will be many more who are in the community or are not being recognised at all.

'The popular hope is that it is just baby fat and they will grow out of it, but our studies show that it is more likely to continue being obese and even become more obese.'



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