Between 2000 and 2009, the number of children in England and Wales admitted to hospital for obesity related problems quadrupled.

The new data, published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, highlights the ever-growing concern of obesity among British children.

Close to 75 percent of the admissions were due to obesity related complications such as:

  • Breathing difficulties during sleep
  • Asthma
  • Pregnancy complications

The research team at Imperial College London gathered data from the NHS (National Health Service) to evaluate the extent of obesity recorded in the diagnoses of children and young people aged five to 19.

In 2000, there were only 872 children admitted to hospital because of an obesity-related condition, this figure jumped to 3,806 in 2009.

The biggest rise in obesity-related hospital admissions were among teenage girls – 198 girls in 2009 experienced complications during pregnancy due to obesity.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that more and more young people are undergoing bariatric surgery procedures, from only one in 2000 to 31 in 2009.

Dr Sonia Saxena, who led the study, said:

“The burden of obesity is usually thought to have its serious consequences in adulthood, but we now see it manifesting earlier, in childhood.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 recognising obesity.”

Close to 30 percent of children between the age of 2 to 15 are considered overweight and up to 20 percent are obese in the UK.

Obesity can be a leading cause of health problems such as:

Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity has become a serious public health concern in the U.K and U.S

It is imperative that doctors talk to their patients about their weight. Previous studies by the team found that American adults are up to eight times more likely to believe that they are overweight or obese if told by a doctor, however, only 45 percent of overweight patients reported being told by their doctor about their weight problem.

JAMA revealed that the prevalence of obesity in the United States has not changed much. Approximately 1 in 3 adults and 1 in 6 children and adolescents are obese in the U.S.

Dr Sonia Saxena concluded that it is “important that doctors speak to patients about their weight, because any attempt to help their patients must begin by recognizing the problem.”

A member of the National Obesity Forum and chairman of the Child Growth Foundation charity, Tam Fry, commented on the finding:

“I’m not surprised by this leap, and I won’t be surprised if in five years we’re taking about another significant rise.When it comes to obesity we have taken our eyes off children to such an extent that they are now completely unmonitored and left to get on with it.

A report by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) Faculty of Occupational Medicine revealed that only 15% of NHS trusts have a policy or plan to help combat staff obesity.

The National Obesity Forum (NOF) chairman, Dr Colin Waine, has warned that the financial cost of obesity could “bankrupt the NHS”.

Written by Joseph Nordqvist