Thursday 2 May 2019

Childhood obesity - what actually works?

The European Congress on Obesity came to an end yesterday after managing to get at least 19 unpublished studies into the news. One hell of media operation.

To be fair, most of them were quite interesting and not as blatantly policy-oriented as usual. I look forward to them being published properly. Two of them particularly stood out.

First, there's this one...

Children who consume sugary soft drinks are not necessarily heavier than those who steer clear, new research suggests.

A study, presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow, found no direct link between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and higher overall energy consumption in four- to 10-year-olds.

There were also no significant differences between the body mass indexes (BMI) of children who consumed sugary soft drinks and those who did not.

I believe this has been known for some time, but it is not mentioned by anti-sugar campaigners for obvious reasons.

“High intake of added sugars was not directly correlated with high energy consumption,” Ola Anabtawi, who led the research, said.

“Therefore, relying on a single-nutrient approach to tackling childhood obesity in the form of a soft drink tax might not be the most effective tactic.”

Now you tell us!

So what does work? That brings me to the second study (which was published last week):

Childhood obesity is a major problem. But now news has emerged that one city - Leeds - has been making some progress.

Figures presented to the European Congress on Obesity suggest Leeds has managed to reduce the number of children who are extremely overweight.

The data showed there had been a 6.4% fall in obesity rates over recent years.

Cool! And unusual. Very, very few places have seen a decline in childhood 'obesity'. So how did they do it? Did they ban 'junk food' advertising on public transport? Did they have a local sugar tax? A clampdown on takeaway shops?

The city council developed a child-obesity strategy a decade ago that made this age group a key priority.

Staff who work with pre-school children, including children's centres workers and health visitors, were trained to promote healthy eating.

And parenting classes encouraged healthy snacking, eating as a family and the importance of cooking nutritious meals from scratch.

The council has taken other steps too. There has been a big focus on getting children active through dance, while there has been an active local campaign to encourage families to reduce their sugar intake.

Parental responsibility and education! Why has nobody thought of this before?

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