October 6, 2008

One-Quarter Australian Children Overweight or Obese: Survey

One-quarter Australian children overweight or obese: survey

CANBERRA, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- The diets of Australian teenagers are severely lacking in fruit and vegetables and almost one- quarter of children are overweight or obese, according to Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Report issued on Friday.

Only one percent of 14 to 16-year-olds eat enough fruit, while just 5 percent of that age bracket meets the daily recommended vegetable intake, and four out of five teenage girls are not getting enough calcium, said the report which was conducted by a team of scientists.

Some 4,487 randomly-selected children from across the nation took part in the telephone interview survey between February and August last year, and the children were split evenly between genders and divided into the age groups of two to three years, four to eight and 14-16.

The survey showed children were much less likely to meet healthy eating and exercise guidelines as they grew older.

Team leader Prof Lynne Cobiac of Flinders University said the results for teenage girls were particularly worrying.

"80 percent of 14 to 16-year-old girls did not consume the recommended amounts of calcium. Girls this age also reported doing the least amount of physical activity," she said, adding these two factors combined put them at risk of developing weak bones as they grow older.

72 percent of children surveyed were of healthy weight, while 17 percent were overweight, 6 percent were obese and 5 percent were underweight. About 69 percent of children met the National Physical Activity Guidelines, which recommend at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day, the report said.

61 percent of four- to eight-year-olds ate enough fruit but only just over one in five of them met the recommended two servings of vegetables each day.

Sugar contributed to almost one-quarter of the children's total energy intake. Dietary guidelines recommend sugar should not comprise more than 20 per cent of overall energy intake.

Children still spend a large chunk of their day in front of the television or computer, with 13 to 14-year-olds clocking up an average of 3.5 hours for girls and four hours for boys, the report showed.

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