Obese kids debate

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Forget Generation Y -- it's Generation fat. Kids as young as three are already battling the bulge, obese by the age of 10, they are ticking health time bombs by their teens.

No longer a fear for the future childhood obesity is a reality today and according to some experts, it's in epidemic proportions thanks to fast food and a lack of exercise.

23 year old Francis Lockie says she's always been big and as a teenager she endured the worst of it. "The fact is obese kids are having a hard time, they are more likely to be bullied", Francis said.

As a size 16 she's far from morbidly obese but says the psychological scars from a cruel world still cut deeper than the prospect of having surgery. "Acording to the BMI I'm obese, but I don't have a problem with that now. I'm happy", Francis said.

If there is a pin up boy for childhood obesity China's Zhu Ho would be it -- four and an half he already weighs 60 kilos. He's a manic eater and also a warning to the world that kids across the globe are gaining weight.

The United States remains the world's fattest country and Australia ranks sixth. But on our current path, by 2020 80% of us will be overweight.

A small army of Aussie kids are determined not to become a statistic. Across the country exercise camps -- tailored to give children one hour of vigorous exercise everyday to help fight off weight gain -- are becoming increasingly important for our future health.

Instructor Police Officer Linda Barty runs a daily PCYC group on the Gold Coast. "The kids go through obstacle courses, gym and they learn physical skills that will help develop their brain", Linda said.

"More and more of our time and effort must be channelled towards focusing on the obesity and its related issues in the adolescent and childhood population", said Dr. George Hopkins.

According to Dr Hopkins, fat kids are the biggest battleground for a healthy future and he believes we're feeding an epidemic that will clog our health system in years to come. Fix it early and it will save a generation and also billions of dollars in the health system. "These are conditions that used to be exceptional but these are now conditions which, in my practice, are almost routine. But that said, I still get shocked by the very image presented before me", Dr. Hopkins added.

Rather than sit back and watch, Dr Hopkins performs lap band surgery on teenagers as young as 14 in an attempt to "by pass" a future being morbidly obese. "I have operated on, placed adjustable gastric bands in 13 and 14 year olds with great success", he said.

But Dr Samantha Thomas, an obesity expert with Monash University, says the claims of an "epidemic" are being sensationalised and that the real danger lies in the message that claim sends to children regarding body image. "We need to be really careful not to name and shame young people about their weight and start to encourage them to be healthy, no matter what their size", Dr. Thomas said.

"It is very much a wake up call but as I say, its not a problem that's in the future, its a problem that's here and now", Dr. Hopkins said.

For further information visit the websites at:
www.drsamanthathomas.com/
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