October 14, 2014
1 min read

Overweight, obesity rates plateau for Ireland's primary school-aged children

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In Ireland, the rates of overweight and obesity among primary school-aged children have leveled off, according to research published in BMC Public Health.

“We are cautiously optimistic that childhood overweight and obesity rates in Ireland have stabilized over the previous decade,” Eimear Keane, a researcher and PhD student at the University College Cork, told Endocrine Today. “However, as one in four Irish children remains overweight or obese, population level preventive strategies are needed to tackle the problem.”

Keane, along with colleagues from Cork and University College Dublin, conducted a systematic review of studies, all conducted between 2002 and 2012 and involving at least 200 primary school-aged children. The investigators were attempting to determine whether Ireland trends reflected the two- to threefold prevalence increases reported across North America and Western Europe.

Through searches of databases, Google and references, and contact with obesity experts, the researchers identified 14 quality studies with data on children in Ireland with objectively measured height and weight. Overweight, obesity and morbid obesity were defined based on International Obesity Task Force standards.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity combined ranged from 20% to 34%. No significant trend was seen for overweight prevalence (P=.5); however, a slight decrease in obesity prevalence was observed (P=.01), with a similar, although nonsignificant, reduction in morbid obesity prevalence (P=.2).

The plateau in Ireland could be due to increasing awareness of the problem of obesity in society, Keane said.

“Some current campaigns in Ireland, such as a childhood obesity campaign led by Safefood, promote a healthy lifestyle for children, including eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity,” she said.

Keane also underscored the importance of monitoring trends in overweight and obesity in children: “We need standardized methods across studies. This will allow for better comparability of results.” – by Allegra Tiver

Disclosure: This research was funded by the National Children’s Research Centre in Crumlin, Dublin.