The fattest children in Leeds are NOT from the poorest neighbourhoods, surprising new research has found.
A study of more than 13,000 children in the city by Leeds Metropolitan University found that, contrary to accepted wisdom, the risk of youngsters being obese is not the highest in the most deprived areas.
The research, which is published in The International Journal of Obesity today, comes just weeks after health minister Anna Soubry claimed children from poor backgrounds were more likely to be overweight.
It showed that, along with those from the most affluent areas, they were at the lowest risk.
Dr Claire Griffiths, who led the study, said: “Although the prevalence of obesity is higher than desirable across the whole city, it appears that children living in the most deprived and most affluent areas of the city are at the lowest risk, with boys and girls following different patterns.
“These results could help make informed decisions at the local level including the allocation of health promotion resources.
“This is especially important now in the light of the recently enhanced role for local governments and authorities with an increased focus on locally-led action in the UK to tackle childhood obesity.”
In a painstaking piece of work taking three years, Dr Griffiths measured the height, weight and waists of 13,333 11 and 12-year-olds and used their post codes to determine how well-off they were.
She found that it was those in the “middle affluent” areas who were at the greatest risk of being obese.
“I personally measured every single kid,” she said. “The reliability and quality of the data can’t be questioned.
“I was surprised, because there is a very strong consensus that the most deprived kids are the most at risk.”
She said previous research may have given misleading results because of smaller sample sizes.
The study, supported by Leeds City Council, could help shape the way the authority approaches problems with obesity.
Dr Griffiths is planning to monitor the same children over coming years to establish if the pattern continues