News in this week that Marks & Spencer is introducing a new line of plus size uniforms for national school children has generated considerable concern among health experts. The outside clothing range includes some 23 inch waisted trousers that should fit children aged eight but are now being tailored for children as young as pre-school.
Commenting on the development on RTE’s News at One this week, Mr Donal O’Shea, endocrinologist at St Vincent’s University Hospital, said the move reflects ongoing obesity trends.
“We knew outsize Communion clothes were introduced to the market three or four years ago but this range is for younger children again. The implications in health and psychological terms for children are very stark.”
Mr O’Shea elaborated that while some people do have a genetic disposition to put on weight, obesity is fundamentally a lifestyle disease caused by an excess amount of calories being eaten by people and a reduction in levels of physical activity.
“It’s as simple as that. Lifestyle has caused the ballooning in weight in the last 30 years”
Specific health issues associated with obesity include asthma, which tends to develop in the late teens and early 20s, as well as the onset of early diabetes and early heart disease, according to Dr O’Shea. It also accounts for 40 per cent of cancers and consequently Mr O’Shea predicts we will soon see a rise in cancer figures.
Access to convenience food that is cheap and easy to get and prepare accounts for some of the weight gain being experienced in young children now and Mr O’Shea suggested there should be ways to incentivise choosing healthier foods.
“The problem is literally one of cookery skills for certain people. A lot of education is required around what is healthy food and how to prepare it.”