(NaturalNews) One in every six children in some parts of the United Kingdom are already obese when they begin primary school, according to a report from that country's Department of Health.
Nationwide, the statistics show a continuing and dangerous rise in childhood obesity, with one in 10 children classified as obese by the age of five, and one in five classified as obese by the start of secondary school. Seventeen percent of children in the United Kingdom are believed to be so overweight that their health is at risk.
Childhood obesity increases the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease later in life.
"There is a lot of literature now that confirms the first year of life is absolutely critical -- and that fat children are in danger of staying fat for the rest of their lives," said Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum. "A huge number of women are going into pregnancy overweight and increasing the risks that their babies will also be obese."
Among low-income communities, rates of obesity are even higher, with up to one in six children already obese at the beginning of primary school.
Previous studies have shown a strong link between lower income and higher rates of childhood obesity. Fry attributes this in part to lack of information about nutrition and cooking among lower income populations, and in part to the relative cheapness of nutrient poor, processed foods.
A recent study showed that 70 percent of parents who have obese children underestimate both the degree to which their children are overweight and the scale of the health risk that this poses.
"In the first half year of life babies are naturally plump, but after that they should be starting to grow into their weight," Fry said. "Doctors have traditionally been trained to think that a huge bonny baby is a good thing but that's now been proven to be extremely bad advice."