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Do you think children today are too fat?

CHILDREN on Wearside could be facing a liver disease “timebomb” because they are overweight, experts are warning.

Hospital bosses in Sunderland said obesity is a major public health challenge and could lead to “a generation of children dying before their parents”.

A quarter of youngsters in Sunderland were overweight when they started school in 2009/10, with 11.2 per cent classed as obese, according to the National Childhood Measurement Programme 2010.This was above the national average of 23.1 per cent.

By Year 6, 36.7 per cent of children were overweight, compared with 33.3 per cent nationally.

Professor Martin Lombard, national clinical director for liver at the Department of Health, said a culture of overeating was putting the lives of more than 500,000 young people at risk.

While alcohol is a major contributor to liver damage, many people are unaware of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is linked to being overweight.

It occurs when fat builds up in the liver, causing inflammation and swelling, and in some people, this progresses to a life-threatening condition called cirrhosis of the liver.

The rate of childhood obesity is set to rise with experts predicting that by the year 2050, 63 per cent of children will be obese.

A City Hospitals Sunderland spokesman said: “Overweight children are at risk of a range of potentially fatal conditions such as liver and heart disease, diabetes, and general ill-health.

“The importance of a healthy lifestyle – lots of exercise and less static pastimes such as computer games and watching TV – and a balanced diet cannot be overestimated.

“Obesity is one of the key public health challenges of today and could lead to a generation of children dying before their own parents.”

Professor Lombard said: “Liver disease is a silent killer, which is putting the lives of thousands of our children at risk.

“We do not want to see the next generations dying young from a condition that can be prevented. We know that with childhood obesity on the rise we can expect more children to be at risk of fatty liver disease in the near future.”

Tracy Webb, senior specialist dietitian at Sunderland Royal Hospital said: “It’s about healthy eating and about being careful how many treats you give your children.

“It’s important to make sure that our children don’t eat too many sugary and fatty foods and about getting the portions right.

“The Change4Life campaign is a great way to find out how to keep our children healthy, with things like the ‘me size portions’, getting five a day, and finding the right balance.

“Of course, exercise is also very important. We have the LAF programme in Sunderland, which is a great way for parents to find out more about how to keep their children healthy.”

Twitter: @Sunderlandecho