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Fat children are still more likely to be bullied -- study

Although the number of overweight children is rising, a study has found that obese children are still more likely to be bullied by thinner classmates even if they are popular or smart.

Researchers from the University of Michigan found that obese children are picked on more, regardless of gender, race, social skills or academic achievement.

Dr Julie C Lumeng, who led the study, said she found the results slightly surprising and "disturbing".

"Unlike in the 1980s, so many kids are obese now. In some schools, half the class may be overweight ... so I really thought that maybe being obese really doesn't result in being bullied as much anymore. I was wrong," she said.

The study involved 821 American boys and girls aged eight to 11. In third grade, 17pc of the children were obese and 15pc were overweight.

A quarter of the children reported being bullied, although their mothers said about 45pc of them were bullied.

According to the researchers, the odds of being bullied were 63pc higher for an obese child compared to a peer of healthy weight.

They found that the higher odds of being bullied among obese children were "equally strong" for boys and girls, white and non-white children, children from poor and more well-to-do families and across all types of schools in all 10 study cities.

"Parents of obese children rate bullying as their top health concern," Lumeng notes in the report published in Pediatrics.