03/06/2003

Report finds almost half NI population are overweight

Over half a million adults in Northern Ireland are overweight and a further 250,000 are obese, the Health Promotion Agency has revealed.

The statistics also raised serious concerns about obesity in children here with a third of boys and a quarter of girls aged 12 carrying excess weight.

Releasing the figures today, the Agency warned that poor choices in eating habits and lifestyle by adults were affecting the health of children as increases in childhood obesity emerge.

Dr Brian Gaffney, Chief Executive of the Health Promotion Agency said: “The statistics for adults are worrying but there is an increasing concern for children, where a similar pattern is emerging.

"Research shows that obesity can impact on a child’s life on many levels and casts a shadow over future health. Obesity can present immediate and future health problems including high blood pressure, raised blood cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

"Overweight children can also suffer from psychological problems including depression and a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem.”

The Health Promotion Agency said it was now generally agreed among health professionals that the fundamental causes of the growing obesity epidemic are inactive lifestyles and high fat, high calorie eating patterns resulting from the changes taking place in society and local food culture.

To encourage parents and carers to help children make healthier lifestyle and food choices the British Dietetic Association has launched an ‘Eat 2b Fit’ campaign which will run throughout the month of June.

The campaign will provide children, schools and families with advice on eating a balanced and varied diet for good health and gives tips on how to top up physical activity levels.

Welcoming the ‘Eat 2b Fit’ initiative Dr Gaffney said: “Meals in a healthy diet should be based around starchy foods such as bread, potatoes and cereals. Everyone should try to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and go easy on foods and drinks high in fats or sugar. Increased physical activity will also help to promote weight loss and general good health.”

(MB)

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