Dinner time. You know how it goes. Though your children will likely shun any form of vegetable, when it comes to food of the unhealthy variety – they can’t get enough. But doctors are warning that parents should ban their children from second helpings to protect them from becoming overweight.
Obesity expert, Dr Clare Llewellyn has revealed that though children who are overweight eat just 12 extra calories at mealtimes, that tiny amount adds up to an extra 5,500 calories every month, which leads to youngsters putting on weight up to 7% quicker than other children of the same age.
Dr Llewellyn, a lecturer in behavioural obesity research at University College London, said that overweight children do not necessarily eat more often, or have more junk food, but likely pile on the pounds because the portions on their plates are too large. As a result, she said parents should be strict about the amount of food their children are having on their plates and enforce a ‘no seconds’ rule.
Speaking at an obesity meeting at the Royal Society of Medicine in Central London, Dr Llewellyn said:
“Overweight children get 12 calories extra calories every time they eat. At this stage as a parent 12 calories is completely invisible to the naked human eye.”
“You can intervene,” she continued. “What this data indicates is that all parents should be being vigilant about portion control, so a no seconds policy.”
Dr Llewellyn went on to say that the best indicator that you need to be more vigilant about your child’s portion sizes, is how quickly they are growing.
“One of the huge issues at the moment in the UK is that there is very little concern about rapid growth in infancy and much much more concern about failure to thrive, which is completely understandable because failure to thrive can be incredibly serious,” she explained.
“But actually as time goes on what we realise is that as time goes parents do need to be educated about what a healthy growth rate looks like and if a child is crossing centiles upwards that’s something that does need to be addressed.”
The conference also raised concerns about the number of children whose genes could be causing them to put on weight. Previous research conducted by UCL found that children who eat more are genetically programmed to be less able to resist food and need more to feel satisfied.
Dr LLewellyn explained that some children were born with ‘greedy genes’ and those who inherit them will have a larger appetite and so are more likely to gain excessive weight.
“Some children are unable to regulate what they eat for themselves and many will not turn down food, even if they are not hungry,” Dr Llewellyn told Daily Mail after the conference.
“The take-home message is that overweight and obese children are not eating radically different things or a huge amount more – they are eating a tiny bit more and that builds up over time.”
“There is no need for parents to keep laying out lashings of extra food on their plates when a child is getting three meals a day and two snacks.”
Childhood obesity is considered to be a growing problem in the UK. Recent figures from the National Child Measurement Programme for England show record numbers of children are leaving primary school obese.
Nearly one in five 10 to 11-year-olds was obese in the last academic year, with more than one in three now described as overweight or obese.
In 2015-16, almost a fifth (19.8%) of Year 6 children were obese, meaning they had a body-mass index of 30 or above, which is a rise on the 19.1% from the previous year.
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