DUNCAN BARKES: Weighing in on a weighty issue

We do not need experts to tell us that childhood obesity is on the rise – look down any high street and you’ll see plenty of those afflicted, usually with a sausage roll clasped tightly in their podgy little hands – but how can it be tackled?

We do not need experts to tell us that childhood obesity is on the rise – look down any high street and you’ll see plenty of those afflicted, usually with a sausage roll clasped tightly in their podgy little hands – but how can it be tackled?

An eminent doctor, and also chairman of the National Obesity Forum, Professor David Haslam, suggests that the time has come to offer stomach surgery to obese children.

The professor says not enough children are offered such operations because current health commissioning guidelines only make this kind of surgery available to over 16s.

Denying accusations that such a move is simply a “quick-fix”, he believes weight-loss surgery can increase life expectancy for decades and that surgery at an early age will counter the possibilities of diabetes, joint pain and high blood pressure later in life, saving the NHS a fortune.

There is some logic to this view, but surely the under-16s are the best placed group to make changes to their lifestyle and lose significant weight? Besides, studies have shown that people over-eat and consume high-fat or high-sugar foods to make up for something else they are lacking – confidence, love or happiness. Going under the surgeon’s knife may sort out the cosmetic state, but not the underlying causes.

Listening to a radio phone-in recently, I was struck by the number of callers who blame the government for the growth in childhood obesity.

There was a belief that the state does not do enough to promote the importance of exercise or nutrition.

Apart from being an utterly absurd view, it is simply not true.

You cannot escape the bombardment of messages regarding healthy living.

So many people seem to consider themselves victims and yet take no responsibility whatsoever for their condition – it is always someone else’s fault. For crying out loud!

Eat less, move more and, if there’s a psychological stumbling block, go and seek advice from an appropriate professional.

But don’t sit back and expect the tax payer to pay for your gastric band.

The professor’s comments suggest weight loss surgery for children should become the norm.

Rubbish. It must only ever be a last resort.

Obese kids should be encouraged to develop their strength of character and basic fitness levels rather than having their stomachs stapled.w