'Shocking figures' - Adults are helping make Kiwi children fat, says professor

Obesity rates continue to rise in New Zealand, and an Otago University professor says adults are often to blame for their children getting fat.

The number of obese children now numbers about 100,000 – while the 1.2 million obese adults are helping to make it that way. Source: 1 NEWS

The Minister of Health said last week that about 1.2 million people - nearly a third of all New Zealanders- are now considered obese - with the number of obese children now approaching 100,000.

Those figures have increased by six per cent over the past ten years.

Dunedin School of Medicine Dean Professor Barry Taylor, speaking on TVNZ 1's Breakfast today, says while "they are shocking numbers, I'm not shocked by it".

"We can look at the environment we're all living in ... how active we are, how well we eat and how well we sleep - all those three factors are all changing, if anything, for the worse."

An increase in the amount of screen time people are seeing is a problem, Professor Taylor said, with those hours spent watching content or browsing the web amounting to hours spent doing no physical activity.

He also emphasised the importance of sleep in fighting obesity, saying people behave very differently, including in terms of their diet, when they are deprived of sleep.

"When you sleep a whole lot of brain recovery occurs," he said.

The increase in childhood obesity is equally alarming, he said, saying that many adults are not setting a good example.

"The majority of adults are not actually demonstrating to children how they should be looking after themselves," Professor Taylor said.

He added that supermarket layouts and marketing are not helping.

"Every time you go into the supermarket, as you go to exit you are surrounded by the types of things you shouldn't be buying - why don't they surround us with fruit and vegetables?"