One in five children born in the UK at the beginning of the new century was obese by the age of 11, new findings have revealed.
It represents a “sharp increase” in the number who were obese at the age of seven, according to the fifth Millennium Cohort Study of more than 13,000 children born between 2000 and 2002.
Experts said it indicated children in the overweight category aged seven were “slowly creeping” in to the obese category by the time they were 11.
The analysis found the proportion of “children of the new century” who were classified as obese jumped from 13 per cent at seven to 20 per cent at 11.
Researchers also said there is a “clear link” between children’s weight at 11 and their parents’ level of education.
A quarter of boys and girls whose parents had no educational qualifications were obese compared to 15 per cent of children who had at least one parent with a degree.
The data also found that children with overweight mothers were more likely to also be overweight, suggesting that children are copying their behaviour.
Ann Hoskins, from Public Health England, said: “It is deeply concerning that there is a virtual doubling of overweight and obesity rates from reception to the end of primary school – and that it is particularly worse for children from low income households.”