More than four million British children are too fat, according to an international study.
It found that four in ten youngsters aged five to 19 were medically obese or overweight.
Researchers at Imperial College London and the World Health Organisation said the total was up from 2.66million in 1975 to 4.53million last year.
The experts warned of an ‘absolute crisis’ in child health leading to heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Researchers spoke of an absolute crisis after childhood obesity has risen across the country
‘These worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe, with healthy nutritious foods too expensive for poor families and communities,’ said Majid Ezzati, the Imperial professor who led the study.
‘The trend predicts a generation of children and adolescents growing up obese. We need ways to make healthy, nutritious food more available at home and school, especially in poor families and communities, and regulations and taxes to protect children from unhealthy foods.
‘Most high-income countries have been reluctant to use taxes and industry regulations to change eating and drinking behaviours.’
The study found that 1.13million five to 19-year-olds were obese, up from 360,000 in 1975. The rate for boys was 10.9 per cent and for girls 9.4 per cent.
Dr Fiona Bull of the WHO said politicians had failed to act after years of warnings. ‘The response has been insufficient, inadequate,’ she added. ‘Obesity is a global health crisis today, and threatens to worsen in coming years unless we start taking drastic action.
‘We are surrounded by environments which market unhealthy, high fat, high sugar, high calorie food. That’s what on the TVs, that’s what is promoted at bus stops.
Dr Fiona Bull of the World Health Organisation has called on the government to impost a tax on fizzy drinks
‘That’s what children are seeing all day, every day. The marketing and the promotion and the price, the specials, the two for ones, the supersizing, the scaling – these are the problems which drive overweight and obesity.’
She said the UK Government had started to take action by making plans for a sugar tax on fizzy drinks in 2018.
But she called for severe limits on marketing because firms were expanding their strategies beyond TV adverts.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, warned that change would not happen overnight.
‘England is at the forefront of addressing childhood obesity – our sugar reduction programme and the Government’s sugar levy are world-leading but this is just the beginning of a long journey. The evidence is clear that just telling people what to do won’t work.’
The Imperial study was reported in the Lancet journal.
Desserts with 20 spoons of sugar
Supersize portions and free re-fills of fizzy drinks are making the crisis even worse, say campaigners.
The World Health Organisation has condemned politicians after saying they failed to act despite years of warning
A Popping Candy Wafer Boat served up by Hungry Horse contains 78g of sugar, which is equivalent to 19.5 teaspoons.
That is 400 per cent of the recommended daily maximum 19g of sugar for a six-year-old. The dessert includes two scoops of ice cream, a wafer boat, strawberry sauce, sweets and a sachet of popping candy.
Food charity the Soil Association released the details in a report on the health of meals served by 25 of the UK’s most popular restaurant chains.
Hungry Horse said: ‘We’ve been working with our suppliers to reduce sugar in our desserts and offer healthier alternatives in our children’s menu.’