News

Irish children under 5 are the fattest in Europe by a distance

NewsBy Shuki Byrne
Report: Obesity in children can cause a lot of health problems in the future
Report: Obesity in children can cause a lot of health problems in the future

A report published yesterday by the World Health Organisation (WHO) predicted that 90 per cent of Irish people will have weight problems in 15 years.

More worrying, however, is the findings of the report which showed that Irish children under five years of age are the fattest in the whole of Europe. 

The new study, published in light of the WHO report, found that more than a quarter (27.5%) Irish children under 5 are classed as overweight or obese. 

The World Health Organisation predicts Ireland is on course to be the fattest country in Europe by 2030, a statistic which is experts say will be worse than a cholera or Aids epidemic. 

Professor Donal O'Shea, head of weight management services at St Colmcille's and at St Vincent's Hospital and co-chair of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Policy Group on Obesity, said if the predictions come to fruition it'll be an "unthinkable" situation for the country's health service. 

It said that by 2030 they estimated that 89 per cent of Irish men and 85 per cent of Irish women will have weight problems.

It also predicted that 57 per cent of Irish women and 48 per cent of Irish men will be deemed obese by the same year.

The figures are based on trends discovered between 2010 and 2014 in 53 WHO countries and if they continued at the same rate, the situation in Ireland by 2030 would be a true crisis.

"Why are we leading the way? I think we have a particular environment where physical activity has gone off a cliff edge particularly for adolescents, and adolescent girls, and we also have just an environment of unregulated, I would say poisoning of our kids, especially in the lower socio-economic groups with high fat, high salt, high sugar foods. So you've got the perfect storm," Professor O'Shea said yesterday morning.

"We're on course to be the fattest country in Europe in by 2030. We must pay attention and we must take action."

The report on child obesity found Ireland far outstripped our European counterparts. 

The table showed approximately 27.5 per cent of Irish children were classed as overweight or obese, followed by the UK (23%) and Albania (22%). Georgia (20%) and Bulgaria (19.8%) followed, while Kazakhstan (0.6%) had the lowest rate. 

"We have an environment where kids leave school for lunch and they go to a garage forecourt and they literally walk down an aisle of high fat, high salt, high sugar foods to buy a chicken fillet roll or breakfast roll that contains their total daily calorie requirements and we know it's harming", Professor O'Shea said. 
 
"If it wasn't harming and if obesity was a purely physical or an appearance problem, then it wouldn't be an issue.
 
"Obesity is already driving a diabetes epidemic, a cancer epidemic, a heart disease epidemic that frankly within the health service we're currently not coping with.
 
"If the WHO figures are even half correct, it's an unthinkable scenario," he warned.
 
IMO President Dr. Ray Walley, said the warning from the WHO was the starkest warning of an impending health crisis for Ireland that he has seen in 30 years in medicine. 
 
“Government must act and act fast.  We need a comprehensive plan across all Government including taxation on high fat and high sugar foods, this taxation should be used to fund integrated health services for obese patients and fund educational projects to encourage younger people to make healthier choices,” he said.
 
“Nothing should be out of scope.  We need a response which ranges from overseeing advertising to how we encourage exercise to how we produce high quality food to how we help people currently suffering with obesity.”