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Obesity on the rise in teens despite increased time spent on physical activities

The survey of teens aged 13 to 18 years, funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, included direct body measurements.

Almost a quarter of teens are classified as being overweight or obese, according to a new survey.

Secondary school children are consuming less sugar and sugar-sweetened drinks while increasing their intake of fruit and water.

The research, which was conducted pre-pandemic, found the levels of obesity in teenagers have increased in recent years. There is little difference in rates across genders.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity is up 6% over 15 years.

The survey of teens aged 13 to 18 years, funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, included direct body measurements.

Respondents were found to be very physically active with an average of 81 minutes per day spent being physically active and almost 70% of teens meeting the recommended 60 minutes a day.

Around seven-and-a-half hours are spent in sedentary behaviours and just under four hours is spent on screens.

Teen mostly eat at home with around one-fifth of food consumed prepared outside the home.

Dr Janette Walton, Munster Technological University, said the focus needs to be on promoting guidelines for healthy eating such as increasing the intake of vegetable, fruit and other foods that provide key vitamins and minerals.

Although teens have increased their consumption of fruit, currently, they are having less than three servings of fruit and vegetables which is well below the recommended five to seven per day.

Changes to dietary behaviours noted in the survey include an increased intake of water, pasta, rice and savouries. Teens have reduced their intake of sugar, salt, sugar-sweetened drinks, fruit juice, milk and potatoes.

According to the survey, teens are not consuming enough dietary fibre, calcium, iron or vitamins A, C and D.

Information gathered under the Food Institutional Research Measure will support advice for healthy eating and policy for food safety.

  • BodyWhys: 01 2107906, alex@bodywhys.ie
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