According to research, almost a quarter of British children under the age of five are overweight or obese.
The study found that the UK has the second-highest proportion of overweight children out of the 28 countries that were able to provide data.
With 23.1% of youngsters in the under-five age group classed as overweight or obese, the UK was second only to Ireland, which registered 27.5%.
In another study, researchers found that children as young as six are suffering dissatisfaction with their bodies.
The research, carried out by Leeds Beckett University, found that children who were classed as overweight or obese on body mass index (BMI) growth charts had higher body shape dissatisfaction scores than children not classed as overweight.
Girls also scored higher in this area than boys.
Data were collected from more than 300 pupils (52% boys) from eight primary schools in Leeds and found that girls had a higher desire to be thin than boys.
Overweight and obese pupils reported more dietary restraint than their peers, which researchers said might lead to them compromising the quality of the diet at a time when they need a good-quality, healthy diet for growth and development.
The study’s lead researcher, Prof Pinki Sahota, said: “The results suggested that body shape dissatisfaction and dietary restraint behaviours may begin in children as young as six to seven years old, and there is an association with increased BMI.
“Obesity prevention programmes need to consider psychological wellbeing and ensure that it is not compromised. Further research should be conducted on how interventions can help improve psychological wellbeing in this age group.”
Dr João Breda of the World Health Organisation’s regional office for Europe, who was involved in the first study, said: “Evidence suggests that early intervention, before five years of age, is necessary if the trajectory to overweight in children is to be arrested and action needs to be taken to have consistent surveillance on this specific population.”
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