Study: Kids obese and short of nutrients

Preschoolers in New Zealand may not be getting enough nutrients despite having high rates of obesity, say dietary experts.

Rachael Taylor, a senior research fellow in early childhood obesity at University of Otago  said levels of obesity were similar in New Zealand to those found in a recent Australian study.

However, there was little data on the nutrition of New Zealand preschoolers.

"Assessing dietary intake of preschoolers is notoriously hard," she said.

A study of 13,000 Adelaide homes found 82 per cent did not get enough dietary fibre and 68 per cent did not have enough long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are found in fish and nuts.
It also found about one-third of preschoolers were overweight or obese.

Dietitian Kath Fouhy was not surprised and blamed the "energy dense, nutritionally deficient, processed foods" eaten by children. She said one attraction of these foods was the convenience.

"We're so time-poor, especially parents."

She said people had been quick to point the finger, but everybody needed to change and regulation was part of this.
Taylor said it was unrealistic to blame just the parents or children.

"There hasn't been a massive decrease in the willpower of two year olds."

She suggested the lack of fibre was because of the types of food eaten. She said children needed to be given more fruit and vegetables, and less white bread, white pasta and white rice.

"There's nothing particularly special about that age. A lot of people in the population probably aren't getting enough fibre."

She also cautioned that excessive amounts of fibre could decrease the absorption of iron and calcium in preschoolers.

The most recent statistics on childhood obesity in New Zealand come from the 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey.

It found 8.3 per cent of children were obese and a further 20.9 per cent overweight. However, there had been no change in obesity rates since 2002.

Taylor said there probably hadn't been an increase since the survey, but noted that this meant one-third were still heavier than they should be for their health.

Fouhy said the full scale of the problem had yet to be seen.

"I'm not sure that people realise how much it's going to cost this country when these people become adults."

Sydney Morning Herald