Child obesity in the UK

Posted 04 September 2015

Last night TV chef Jamie Oliver’s documentary, ‘Jamie’s Sugar Rush’, aired on Channel 4. Child obesity is a topic that we at Making Sense of Sugar take very seriously.

As a parent, you may feel you’re continually bombarded with different advice on what to give your families to eat and drink.

At MSoS we share a common goal with Jamie – we’re committed to helping parents make informed choices about their child’s diet and lifestyle. Our guidance is based on both qualified nutritional expertise and robust science, so that you can make the best possible diet and lifestyle choices for you and your family.

Although sugar was the big focus in the programme, it’s really important to remember that there’s no silver bullet for solving the issue. It’s a complex problem and won’t be solved by removing or reducing sugars out of food and drinks.

You may not know that the most recent Government data shows us that, despite a fall in total sugars consumption over the last 14 years, obesity rates continue to rise, which just proves the complexity of the issue to hand!

Also, when it comes to dental health, the science tells us that the number of times children’s teeth are subjected to an acid attack (in other words eating or drinking) combined with what they consume, can have an impact on their dental health.

Parents can minimise their children’s risk of tooth decay by brushing their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and by making sure that if they enjoy sugary foods and drinks, they do so with meals rather than as a snack. Check out the dental section of our website here for more info.

Reducing sugars can help people lose or control their weight. As Helen Bond, state registered dietitian says: “It’s essential for people to also think about sugar, or more correctly termed sugars, within the context of the food and their whole diet and lifestyle.” We agree, with the starting point being calories (energy) in and calories (energy) out and that an excess of anything isn’t good for us!

Paediatric Dietitian, Ana-Kristina Skrapac

Reducing sugar intakes in children’s diets is an important health message. However it is equally important to educate parents and children that working towards a healthy diet, by reducing total intake of calorific foods, those foods that are typically high in fat or sugar and low in nutritional value, will make the bigger difference.

Obesity is the biggest risk factor for developing type two diabetes and associated health problems, and a high energy diet on the whole is linked to excessive weight gain. Eating practices in general have swayed towards a higher proportion of convenience foods and snacks and drinks that are high in calories and low in nutrients. Consumption in general is just too high. Children are not meeting the recommended intakes for fruits, vegetables or fibre, foods that are generally low in fat, providing important nutrients.

It’s time that we all take a look at what we eat, what children see their parents eating, and how accessible ‘junk’ foods are compared with more balanced, healthy foods. Health measures aimed at helping parents modify dietary practices within the home and shift dietary intake towards a balanced diet is crucial in impacting obesity rates. Supermarkets and food outlets may also help with creating more positive health messages for making nutritious foods more accessible over less healthy convenience foods or snacks.

An equally important message is encouraging children to become more active in their play and participate in sport in and out of school.


Want to find out about healthy recipes for your children? See our lunchbox tasties recipe section co-created by leading chef Manju Mahli and child nutritionist Ana-Kristina Scrapac.