Researchers to tackle obesity in young children

Published: 2 October 2008

Scientists from the University of Glasgow are to lead the way in a Europe-wide study of childhood obesity.

Scientists from the University of Glasgow are to lead the way in a Europe-wide study of childhood obesity.

More than 17,000 children from 10 different countries are to be monitored, in one of the largest studies of its kind ever undertaken.

The preliminary phase of the five-year trial will take place in Glasgow and researchers are looking for children aged from four to eight to assist with the work.

Dr Yannis Pitsiladis, who is leading the study, said: “Obesity is one of the major healthcare challenges facing the western world today. As we eat more and exercise less, our body fat increases, storing up problems for the future.

“One of the most worrying trends in scenario is the increase in obesity among our children. This is a fairly new phenomenon and is not confined to the UK alone. Across the developed world, children and becoming fatter and more unhealthy.

“The environment of infants and children has drastically changed during the last decades and this is reflected in alterations of behaviour, dietary habits and low physical activity. Dietary as well as lifestyle factors appear to play a part in the development of obesity, metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes and musculoskeletal disorders.

“To stop the epidemic of diet and lifestyle-induced morbidity in European children, action needs to be taken.

“This study is part of the reaction to this obesity epidemic.”

The Identification and Prevention of Dietary and Lifestyle-induced health effects in Children and Infants study has been funded by the European Commission

Together with in total 23 partners from Spain to Estonia, Sweden to Cyprus, the IDEFICS project is investigating the factors which contribute to childhood obesity.

The University of Glasgow’s Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences are looking for 33 children aged between four and eight, to volunteer for the study.

Dr Pitsiladis said: “We are looking for volunteers who are aged between four and eight and who are in good general health.

“We would encourage parents who want to find out more about their child’s health to volunteer for this. The study will provide a comprehensive measurement of the child’s physical activity levels and body composition allowing us to assess and advise personally whether a child meets the government recommended guidelines.

“The results of the study will also allow us to design and implement a large-scale intervention study across the whole of Europe to try and reduce the number of overweight and obese children. The healthy future of our children and our children’s children is dependent on us acting now.

“Once this five-year project ends, it will have produced useful and practical information to help children achieve a healthy lifestyle and reduce their risk of obesity and associated conditions either in childhood or later in life.

“This will include data on the prevalence of diet and lifestyle related diseases and their key risk factors, presented in a format that enables comparisons across Europe; information on risk factors and pathways which lead to them, including biomarkers of exposure and effect and genetic factors; knowledge about internal and external triggers of food choices in children; effective intervention strategies which are easy to implement on a large scale in Europe and nutritional, behavioural and ethical guidelines for policy makers, health professionals and other stakeholders.

To volunteer for the study, please call Dr Yannis Pitsiladis at the University of Glasgow on 0141 330 3858 email or Dr Robert Scott 0141 330 6546 email

First published: 2 October 2008

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