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EDOR Director Rachael Taylor comments on new UK strategies to prevent childhood obesity

Professor Rachael Taylor, Karitane Fellow in Early Childhood Obesity and Director of the Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre (EDOR), has been asked to comment on the new child obesity prevention strategies being considered by the British government.

The child obesity strategy changes being explored in the United Kingdom (UK) include calorie labelling on menus in restaurants, cafés and takeaways, so that parents can make an informed choice about what their families are eating. A ban on the sale of caffeine-laden energy drinks to children is also being considered. The UK government may introduce new TV and online advertising restrictions to prevent children from being targeted by these unhealthy products, and to incentivise companies to reduce the sugar and calories in the products they sell.

Professor Taylor noted that modelling studies showed getting rid of junk food advertising was the most cost-effective solution when it came to combating obesity among children. Banning the sale of energy drinks to children would also be a move in the right direction. Dr Taylor emphasized that a "concerted effort" is required to tackle the issue of childhood obesity, as no one strategy works for everyone.

In New Zealand, obesity is even more prevalent than in the UK, with one-third of all children being overweight, and rates being much higher in Pacific Island and Maori children. We also have the third highest rate of adult obesity in the OECD, behind the United States and Mexico.

Changes to the food environment in New Zealand have been slow in coming, partly due to the notion that being overweight and obese is due to a lack of willpower.  However, as Professor Taylor points out, the fact that obesity statistics have increased dramatically in a short space of time suggests that this notion is not correct - "unless we have also seen a huge reduction in willpower over the past two decades or so, which does not seem realistic”, she says.

Read the news article

Calls to target junk food ads, ODT, 26 June, 2018

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