Health warning as one in 60 kids aged 7 is 'severely obese'
More than one in 60 Irish seven-year-olds is severely obese, according to a new study, with boys twice as likely to be seriously overweight.
The findings are part of the first Europe-wide study of its kind on the incidence of severe obesity in school-aged children, from over 636,000 children in 21 countries, using World Health Organisation data.
The research, published in Obesity Facts, found severe obesity varied greatly between countries, ranging from just 1pc in Swedish children to 5.5pc in Maltese children. The rate for Irish children is 1.6pc.
Severe obesity was defined as the proportion of children with a BMI which would correspond to greater than 35 for an 18-year-old.
The study found a further 6.5pc of Irish seven-year-olds were obese, while 19pc had pre-obesity or were overweight.
This means one in four Irish children was overweight or obese, putting Ireland 10th in the table.
The data came from children monitored in the World Health Organisation Childhood Obesity Surveillance initiative based on data from about 40 countries on children aged six to nine.
Greece had the highest level of obese or overweight children at nearly 50pc, while Moldova was at the bottom of the table, with just over 15pc.
The researchers discovered that one in five obese children came under the classification of severe obesity in Ireland.
It found severe obesity in Ireland was nearly twice as high in boys - with rates of 2.1pc for boys compared to 1.1pc for their female counterparts.
Children with severe obesity often have "immediate consequences" for their health, including a worse cardiometabolic risk profile and early indication of hardening of the arteries, researchers said.
They are also more likely to suffer from depression due to teasing and bullying, as well as other social risks.
The World Health Organisation said prevention strategies could include programmes such as school-led physical activity initiatives and regulation of advertising of unhealthy foods.
It also suggested guidance on age-appropriate portion sizes and targeted education for parents, among others.