Stark new figures from the Obesity Health Alliance, released on World Obesity Day, show a looming significant weight gap between the poorest and wealthiest primary school-aged boys living in England.
Three in five (60%) of the most deprived boys aged 5-11 are predicted to be overweight or obese by 2020, compared to about one in six (16%) of boys in the most affluent group.
The most deprived girls didn't however show the same trend, and are projected to have similar obese and overweight prevalence rates to their more affluent counterparts with an average of 1 in 5 girls predicted to be obese or overweight by 2020.
Eating or drinking too much sugar is a key reason for consuming extra calories and therefore a cause of obesity. Sugar currently makes up 13% of children's daily calories intake, while the official recommendation is no more than 5%. This is why the Obesity Health Alliance fully supports the Government's Soft Drinks Industry Levy, which is an important step to help make our children healthier. The alliance is also calling on food manufacturers to comply with the government's programme to reduce the sugar in food eaten often by children and wants to see loopholes closed to protect children from exposure to junk food marketing and online and on TV.
Robin Ireland, Chief Executive of Health Equalities Group and member of the Obesity Health Alliance, said:
"These stats also illustrate an obvious gender gap between boys, especially from those from the most deprived areas, much more likely to be obese. Whilst it is difficult to comment on exactly why this happens, there could be a number of reasons including girls usually being more conscious about their physical appearance, and boys being more brand loyal and therefore susceptible to the billions of pounds spent on marketing to children through brand characters and sports stars. Either way, this area needs a lot more attention.
"From a young age, children are developing a taste for high sugar, salt and fatty foods that is difficult to break once established and as a nation, we all have a responsibility to help shape children's diets.
"Sugary drink consumption levels tend to be highest among the most disadvantaged children who are hit hardest by obesity and tooth decay. The health gains from the soft drinks industry levy will be biggest for our most deprived children."
Obese children are around five times more likely to become obese adults, an obese adults are more likely to develop serious health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, liver and cardiovascular disease, and associated mental health problems which all have a devastating impact on millions of lives.
Chris Askew, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said:
"Obesity is a major risk factor in developing type 2 diabetes, and type 2 accounts for 9 out of 10 diabetes cases. Treating diabetes and its complications already costs the health service £10 billion a year and the rising cost is placing huge pressure on the NHS.
"Not taking action now will result in the NHS forking our monumental amounts of money for largely preventable conditions. This is why it's so important to implement the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, manufacture healthier food, and close the loopholes of junk food marketing to children today, so our future health, workforce, and NHS can stand a chance tomorrow."