One in three children are considered overweight or obese by the time they start secondary school, according to new figures released by Public Health England (PHE).
Ministers have recently been under pressure to introduce a sugar tax and to reduce the marketing of junk food aimed at pre-teens, an issue which has become more prominent in light of the recent figures.
In January new rules were introduced for school meals in England, stating that they must include one or more portions of vegetables or salad every day, and no more than two portions of fried foods or pastry-based foods each week. Dr Patricia Mucavele, head of nutrition at the Children's Food Trust, welcomed the new standards, saying variety was key.
Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: "By the age of eleven, children tend to have made up their minds about what their lifestyle will be." PHE's report found that teenagers consume an average of three times the recommended amount of sugar, while adults have more than twice the advised limit.
Obesity can cause illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular problems and gout. The PHE reported that if the population's sugar intake was reduced to the recommended healthy levels, the NHS could save up to £14 billion over the next 25 years and up to 77,000 fewer people would lose their lives.
In addition to the current rules in place for healthy eating in schools, David Cameron has stated that by January a further obesity strategy will be put in place.
Posted by Tim Colman