Obesity a problem for Coast kids

By KUE DAVIS

COFFS Harbour paediatrician Dr Anand Naidoo has rejected claims in a university study that obesity in children has been exaggerated.

The study, presented yesterday at the University of Sydney, says the obesity epidemic among children has been grossly overstated, and that the problem is concentrated among poorer families and some ethnic groups.

The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday reported the study shows children from low-income families are twice as likely to be obese as children from high-income families, and their risks are increased if they are from Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, Aboriginal or southern European background.

It is a view that does not match up with Dr Naidoo's experiences on the Coffs Coast.

"I haven't got any numbers, but from my impression, there are a large number of overweight children in Coffs Harbour. I would say that I would see around two or three a week," Dr Naidoo said.

He did agree, however, that low income families were at a higher risk.

"That sounds right. Usually lower income families eat more unhealthy food it's a lot cheaper," he said.

Based on a national sample of 8500 children aged six to 18, the study of health, fitness and fatness is the first of its kind to measure social class and ethnicity.

Presenter of the study, associate professor of nutrition and health education at the University of Sydney, Jenny O'Dea, said the child obesity rate is 'not rocketing out of control' and appears to be levelling off.

"There's a suggestion the whole of Australia is at risk of obesity and that's been blown out of the water by this research," she said.

"High-income Anglo children are at very low risk of obesity compared to low-income children from Aboriginal, Islander or Middle-East backgrounds."



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