NEW DATA has revealed that more than a quarter of children in their last year of primary School in Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire are already overweight or obese.

The figures are released as a new campaign is launched by Public Health England (PHE) which encourages parents to cut down the amount of sugar their children consume.

In Gloucestershire, 24.7 per cent (1,536) of children start school either overweight or obese, which then becomes 32.1 per cent (1,870) for those in their last year.

In South Gloucestershire, 18.3 per cent (563) children start school either overweight or obese, which then becomes 27.7 per cent (722) for those in their last year of school - the best in the Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire area.

Both, however, were under the English average of 19.1 per cent of year six children being either overweight or obese.

The new Change4Life campaign launched by the public health body is advising parents to make simple dietary changes which could help cut down on sugar consumption.

Sugar can also have a devastating impact upon dental health, an integral part of overall health. Tooth decay was the most common reason for hospital admissions for children aged five to nine in 2012-13. 28 per cent of five year olds in England have tooth decay and of these, 24 per cent have five or more teeth affected.

Change4Life Sugar Swaps launches following a new survey amongst Netmums users who were polled on their views on sugar. The results highlight that nearly half (47 per cent) of mums surveyed think their family has too much sugar in their diets and two thirds of mums (67 per cent) are worried about the amount of sugar their children consume.

Change4Life is recommending four Sugar Swaps to choose from, tackling different ‘sugar occasions’ in the day:

- The Breakfast Swap: sugary cereal for plain cereal e.g. wholewheat biscuit cereal

- The Drink Swap: e.g. from sugary drinks to sugar-free or no-added-sugar drinks

- The After School Swap: for example from muffins to fruited teacake

- The Pudding Swap: for example from ice cream to low-fat lower-sugar yoghurt

Mark Patterson, health and wellbeing programme leader for the Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire PHE Centre said:

“Reducing sugar intake is important for the health of our children both now and in the future. We are all eating too much sugar and the impact this has on our health is evident.

“This campaign is about taking small steps to address this. We know from past campaigns that making simple swaps works and makes a real difference. This year we wanted to be even more single minded in our approach, which is why we are focusing on sugar alone.

“The family challenge highlights that simple swaps could lead to big changes if sustained over time and we’d urge parents in Avon Gloucestershire and Wiltshire to try one more simple swap in January and beyond.”

Cathy Court, founder of Netmums said:

“We know that mums want to provide a healthy diet for their children but balancing a number of competing priorities, including healthy eating, can be tricky. Although sugar consumption is a worry for parents, we understand that taking steps to reduce sugar can be really difficult. We hope that these simple Sugar Swaps from Change4Life will make it easier for parents to reduce their family’s sugar intake.”