Obesity rates in the UK have doubled over the past two decades, and even though they’ve begun to flatline in recent years, health organizations are still struggling to figure out ways to ameliorate the problem. According to a new report by the British Heart Foundation, many children could be on the verge of serious health problems later in life if they continue to eat junk food, and skip meals and exercise.

“The burden of obesity is usually thought to have its serious consequences in adulthood, but we now see it manifesting earlier, in childhood,” said Dr. Sonia Saxena, lead author of a study on childhood obesity in the UK published last month in the journal PLOS One. "It's clear that rising obesity levels are causing more medical problems in children, but the rise we observed probably also reflects increasing awareness among clinicians, who have become better at recognizing obesity."

About one in five UK children are obese and it seems none of them are doing anything to become healthier, even with the launch of the government’s Child Measurement Programme in 2006, which monitors children’s weight throughout their school years. Between 2000 and 2009, 15,000 cases of obesity-related disease required hospitalization. What’s more, admission rates in 2009 were four times more than they were in 2000 (3,800 vs. 872).

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The British Heart Foundation’s, “Children and Young People Statistics 2013,” reports that 80 percent of English children, most of them between two and 15 years old, still aren’t eating the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Instead, 38 percent of them are eating crisps (potato chips), 40 percent are eating chocolates, and 49 percent of them are eating other sweets at least once each day, The Guardian reports. The junk food doesn’t stop there though. About 39 percent of girls and 43 percent of boys drink at least one can of soda each day.

Children appear to be skipping breakfast for their snacks too. An astounding 47 percent of boys and 36 percent of girls skipped it. Breakfast has been considered the most important meal of the day, and for good reason. According to Mayo Clinic, children who eat breakfast meet daily nutrient requirements, have better concentration, and are more alert and creative.

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When it came to being physically active, 85 percent of girls and 73 percent of boys, aged 13, reported less than an hour of physical activity each day. Instead, almost three-quarters of both girls and boys reported watching at least two hours of TV during the week, and more than six hours on weekends.

“These figures are a warning that many of our children are in grave danger of developing coronary heart disease in the future if they continue to live the same lifestyle,” Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, told The Guardian. “This is simply unacceptable.”

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The British Heart Foundation just funded £1.2 million in community projects that are aimed at teaching children to choose healthy foods and to be more active. Even though obesity levels have flatlined, it doesn’t mean health officials can rest easy.

“Even if it is leveling out, there is still a huge number of children who are obese or overweight who wouldn’t have been so 30 years ago,” Victoria Taylor, senior dietician of the British Heart Foundation, told The Guardian. “These children are likely to continue to be obese throughout their childhood and adulthood.”

Published by Medicaldaily.com