THE number of overweight children in Australia could see life expectancy fall by 1.7 years for males and 2.2 years for females, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
In a report released earlier this month, the ABS found the average life span of a 20 year old could regress to levels as far back as those expected in 1997 if obesity continues to rise.
New research by Australian experts has found teaching parents about nutrition could be the key to solving this major health issue.
The two-year study by experts from the universities of Newcastle and Wollongong revealed parents must be actively engaged in changing the whole family’s diet to help reduce childhood obesity.
University of Wollongong Associate Professor and head researcher Tony Okely said the results could make a huge difference to the global epidemic.
“We are not advocating stopping the great health programs currently targeting children, as educating our kids on healthy lifestyles is critically important,” Mr Okely said.
“However, our findings show that the most effective childhood obesity treatment is parents being given good quality advice and support to improve the family’s food habits.”
In a bid to do their bit, The Biggest Loser trainers Michelle Bridges and Shannon Ponton have launched a new national campaign to fight childhood obesity in Australia.
The Lets Live Better program will see Bridges and Ponton visit over 300 primary schools across the country teaching children to make healthier food and lifestyle choices.
“Michelle and I have been waiting for years to get involved with something like this and we’re really excited about the changes we could make to these kids lives,” Shannon Ponton said.
“Unfortunately one in four children, by the time they are 18, are obese and as if that’s not bad enough, the leading killer of four to 14 year olds in Australia at the moment is heart disease.
“The earlier we start teaching them about good eating habits, the better.”
As part of the program, students earn a point for their school with every dollar they spend buying healthy groceries at Colonial shopping centres nationwide. The two schools with the most points at the end of the competition will win a $40,000 Canteen Rescue.
“It’s such a great prize and canteens predominately these days are pretty good,” Bridges said.
“We’ve been to a few now and they’ve got lots of great ideas such as fruit and fresh yogurt as well as healthy muffins and that kind of thing.
“So kids do have access to great healthy options, they just need the knowledge to make the right choices.”