A QUARTER of Irish nine-year-olds are overweight with a disturbing trend towards obesity, according to a new report on the issue.
And girls are more likely than boys to find themselves with weight problems at this age, says Professor Richard Layte of the ESRI Growing Up In Ireland study.
The study found that a third of girls had weight problems while only a fifth of boys faced the same problems at that age.
The economic sociologist explained that the problem was more widespread among the disadvantaged in society, making them much more likely to continue to have health problems into adulthood.
Modern problems stemmed from youngsters taking too little exercise as they sat for too long in front of televisions and computers games while consuming the wrong type of foods and drinks.
"There is a broader issue where people have more food available and a less active lifestyle. There is also much less parental awareness with half of parents thinking their children were the right weight," he stressed.
And it was found that overweight mothers were less likely to recognise a similar problem in their own sons or daughters.
Professor Layte pointed out that children needed to be weighed more and should visit a GP once a year for this purpose. At such a meeting, the parents too should also be assessed to see if they are overweight.
Part of the solution, he said on RTE’s Morning Ireland, was to build more exercise into a day, but there was a need for a multi-pronged intervention.
Professor Layte believed there should be an education programme on weight, diet and portion sizes as well as an awareness for a proper level of exercise as part of future plans to tackle the problem.
He also emphasised the benefits of an incentive driven broader intervention where increased pricing on highly-sugared soft drinks would lead to a lowering in consumptions. He also said better labelling would improve the situation