Girls More Likely To Be Fat At 7 Than Boys

Girls More Likely To Be Fat At 7 Than Boys
A UK-wide study has found that girls are much more likely than boys to be overweight at age 7.

Researchers at the Institute of Education, University of London, who have been monitoring the weights of more than 11,000 children born between 2000 and 2002, have worked out that girls are almost 50% more likely than boys to be too heavy at age 7. About one in four girls was overweight at this age, compared with just over one in six boys.

The researchers also found that seven-year-olds with no brothers or sisters are about 25 per cent more likely to be overweight than youngsters with one sibling and about 30 per cent more likely to be overweight than those with two siblings.

an overweight seven year old girl
The study's principal author, Dr Alice Sullivan, said: 'Girls and only children are also more likely to become overweight between the ages of 5 and 7. It is not clear whether the increased risk for girls is due to them being overfed compared to boys, or because they are involved in less physical activity - perhaps due to the over-protectiveness of parents - or some combination of the two."

Dr Sullivan and her colleagues also emphasise that overweight five-year-olds are 25 times more likely than children of normal weight to still be too heavy at age 7. 'The fact that children overweight at 5 have an overwhelmingly greater risk of being overweight two years later suggests that 'puppy fat' should not be ignored and early intervention is crucial,' they say.

The researchers, who analysed the weights of children taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study, also found that those with an overweight or obese mother, an obese father, and a mother who is a smoker, are at substantially greater risk of being overweight.
Dr. Sullivan continued....

'This implies that overweight is a family problem .... Health messages need to be targeted at mothers in particular.'

The research confirmed that there is a clear link between poverty and overweight. Almost one in four seven-year-olds in England, Scotland and Wales whose families were living below the study's poverty line at both the age 9 months and age 3 surveys was overweight. By contrast, less than one in five children in families who were not in poverty at either survey was overweight.

The association between poverty and overweight was even stronger in Northern Ireland. Almost one in three seven-year-olds classified as poor at both surveys was overweight, compared with one in five of those above the poverty line at age 5 and 7.

A higher proportion of seven-year-olds in Northern Ireland and Wales was overweight than in England and Scotland.

December 2010

The Millennium Cohort Study has been tracking children in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through their early childhood and plans to follow them into adulthood. It covers such diverse topics as parenting; childcare; school choice; child behaviour and cognitive development; child and parental health; parents' employment and education; income; housing; and neighbourhood.

Surveys of the cohort were also carried out when the children were aged nine months and three years. At age seven, as at ages 3 and 5, height and weight measurements were taken and a measure of Body Mass Index (BMI) derived. Standard cut-offs for overweight and obesity were applied.

In the Millennium Cohort Study, families considered to be in poverty are estimated to be living on less than 60% of the average national household income. The poverty line calculation takes into account the number of people in a household.

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