Irish under-fives weigh in as fattest in Europe
Irish children aged five and under are the fattest in Europe, a new study reveals today.
The league table shows 27.5pc of Irish children in this age group are classed as overweight or obese, followed closely by the UK at 23pc.
The findings, presented to the European Congress on Obesity, come on foot of predictions that Irish adults will be among the heaviest in Europe by 2030.
Expert Dr Donal O'Shea has described this health crisis as worse than AIDS or cholera.
Today's research found that only 32 of the 53 World Health Organisation (WHO) member states had data available on the nutritional status of children aged five and under, especially on over-nutrition.
The data involved looking at weight and obesity at different ages in the under-fives.
Kazakhstan had the lowest rate of overweight under-fives at less than 1pc, with the Czech Republic (6pc) Belgium (7pc) and Sweden (8pc) among other nations at the bottom of the list.
The authors said that breastfeeding of babies may be playing a part in countries with lower obesity rates.
Other factors include educating mothers on nutrition and having children active at a young age.
"It is possible that in countries with high child obesity, there could be a relationship to adult obesity. There is strong evidence that child weight status is associated with a mother's weight status, particularly at these young ages when a child's health is solely dependent on the caregiver," said the team.
"Recent research has tied early life nutrition status to long-term health, increasing the necessity for young populations to be at the forefront of policymakers' minds when discussing interventions and places to target."
Dr Sinead Murphy, a paediatrician in Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin, has previously warned that the waiting list for a child with weight problems to be seen in its clinic is over a year long.
"We are shocked each and every time a child presents to us with high blood pressure, breathing problems or joint pain due to having too much fat tissue in their body. We must not neglect children who have these issues."
The team has pointed out that as well as a properly resourced hospital programme there needs to be services in the community also.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar said a new national activity plan would be published later this year, which would pilot a scheme where GPs write "exercise prescriptions" for suitable patients.
Obesity in children is stabilising, but mostly among the better-off.
Today's study on under-fives follows a review of publicly available data collected and published since 1998.
It was compiled by the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and Dr João Breda of the WHO's regional office for Europe.