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Child obesity threatens life expectancy

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13:17 CEST+02:00
The strapping, outdoors-loving Swede is a dying breed. According to a study by Karolinska university hospital, obesity among seven year olds in Stockholm has increased from 8.5% to 21% over the last fifteen years.

"The Swedish children born today will, on average, have a shorter life," said professor Claude Marcus, Sweden's leading child weight expert who is based at Karolinska.

"The reason is obesity."

Professor Marcus said that the increase in child obesity would become the biggest public health issue facing Sweden.

"These days children aged eight have the preliminary stages of arteriosclerosis and diabetes, and these are illnesses which we know shorten life expectancy."

What makes matters worse is the fact that far more fat kids are becoming fat adults. Today, 80% of children who are overweight will remain overweight into adulthood - that's double the rate 25 years ago.

Child health consultant Leif Ekholm told Dagens Nyheter that the problem begins even younger than eight years old: according to figures from Örebro university hospital, every fifth four year old in the region is overweight.

"We see the same levels of obesity among four year olds today as we previously saw among ten year olds," he said.

Ekholm said it's the parents' attitudes which need to change.

"It's not the four year olds who are going out by themselves and buying sweets," he said.

The problem of child obesity was discussed by EU health experts in Brussels on Tuesday and the issue is by no means confined to Sweden: Aftonbladet reported that the number of overweight children in the EU countries is increasing by 400,000 every year.

One proposal presented in Brussels was to ban the use of popular cartoon figures in advertisements for junk food, as well as encouraging kids to exercise more.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Aftonbladet

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