CHILDREN and young teenagers who skip meals, consume fizzy drinks and watch a lot of television are storing up serious health problems which could damage their wellbeing in later life, a charity has warned.
Teenagers are worse than younger age groups, with many leading inactive lifestyles and missing out on vital nutrients, according to a report released by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Oxford University.
Around one in three (30 per cent) children and young people across the UK are overweight or obese, which can cause problems including diabetes and heart disease.
The report Children and Young People Statistics 2013, bringing together a range of health statistics, found around two in five 13-year-olds (39 per cent of girls and 43 per cent of boys) drink a soft drink every day.
Almost half (47 per cent) of boys and over a third (36 per cent) of girls aged 13 go without breakfast as do 29 per cent of 11-year-old girls and 26 per cent of 11-year-old boys.
The figure is even higher among 15-year-olds, with 57 per cent of girls and 38 per cent of boys going without breakfast.
Overall, around a quarter of children aged two to 15 spend at least six hours every weekend day being inactive.
Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the BHF, said: “These figures are a warning that many of our children are in grave danger of developing coronary heart disease in the future if they continue to live the same lifestyle. This is simply unacceptable.”
The charity is expanding its Hearty Lives programme by committing £1.2 million to fund seven new community projects.
Mr Gillespie said: “The projects, run in partnership with local authorities, the NHS and non-profit organisations, will use a range of interventions to help.
“These include employing a dietician to work with children struggling with obesity in Manchester and running weight management programmes for teenagers in Scotland.
“Through our new Hearty Lives projects we are committed to working with local communities to give young people most at risk of heart disease a healthier start in life.”
Tina Woolnough, from the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said: “I’m not surprised by these figures. Healthy habits need to be instilled at a young age, but a large part of school concerns getting them to sit as still as possible.
“We need a cultural change in how we engage with children and young people and practice what we preach and not be sitting at a computer or in front of a television ourselves.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We recognise that obesity is a serious issue across Scotland and are taking concerted action to make our national diet healthier.”