Better access to green space can tackle obesity

Children who have limited access to green and outdoor space at the ages of three-to-five are more likely to be obese or overweight by age seven, researchers have found.

The study was led by Annemarie Schalkwijk of the VU University Medical Centre and was based on the Millennium Cohort Study, a national study of 19,000 UK children born between 2000 and 2001. The research assessed data from 6,467 English children and was presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Stockholm.

It assessed the influence of the amount of green space, garden access and safety to threeto five-year-olds on being obese at age seven, once parental influences such as food consumption were taken into account. It found that children from poor or disadvantaged environments who had no access to a garden and limited local green space had a 38 per cent higher chance of becoming overweight or obese at age seven.

However, for those with a higher education level the perceived shabbiness of the local neighbourhood was the main factor, increasing the likelihood of childhood obesity by 38 per cent. More research is needed to examine how these findings could be used to prevent type II diabetes, the researchers advised.

Around 10 per cent of England's five-year-olds are obese, as well as nearly 20 per cent of 11-year-olds, according to the NHS. In addition to the risk of childhood psychosocial problems, the latter have an 80 per cent increased risk of becoming obese adults. In their turn, obese adults have a much higher likelihood of developing type II diabetes, a disease that Diabetes UK has warned is on track to bankrupt the NHS.

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