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Family obesity highlighted

15th March 2007

Parents are failing to recognise obesity in themselves and their children, says the Medical Research Council.

The government is so alarmed by the MRC research over family obesity that it is has launched its Healthy Living Programme to help parents identify ways to encourage their children to lead healthier lifestyles.  The Department of Health has set targets to stop the annual rise in childhood obesity by 2010 and as such has pledged strategies to help parents improve the health of their children.  The team from the Human Nutrition Research unit at the MRC identified several major barriers families faced when trying to adopt a wholesome lifestyle; busyness, irregular working hours and a lack of confidence over how to achieve a healthy standard of living were all factors stopping parents from assuming a beneficial way of life despite them knowing the importance of a balanced diet and regular exercise. 

The MRC study also found that the average time spent preparing meals has fallen from 2 hours to 20 minutes since the 1980s and that parents will often try to avoid mealtime arguments by giving children what they want to eat rather than what is good for them.  Parents also prevent their children from playing outside or walking to school due to concerns over their safety which is further reducing their opportunities for exercise.

A spokesperson for the MRC said that although the majority of parents recognised that an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity contributed to obesity, “people don't necessarily realise that it applies to their child."

 

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