PARENTS will soon be outliving their children if the obesity epidemic is not addressed, it has been claimed.

It comes as Oxford academics have led a study which has found obese children should lose weight or risk life-threatening heart disease.

Jonathan McWilliam, Oxfordshire’s director for public health, told a meeting of the health overview and scrutiny committee (HOSC) yesterday that action needed to be taken.

He said: “Obesity decreases life expectancy by something like nine years.

“Parents will be outliving their children if the obesity epidemic isn’t addressed.

“The seriousness of this can’t be underestimated.

“That it is why it remains a priority.”

Department of Health figures reveal that the proportion of primary school pupils with obesity in Oxford has increased from seven per cent in 2009 to more than 15 per cent this year.

The Oxford University Study found significantly overweight children had several risk factors for heart disease including raised blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and a thickening of the heart muscles.

The study, which was published on the British Medical Journal website, examined data from 63 research papers published between 2000 and 2011 which studied almost 50,000 children in ‘highly developed’ countries.

The researchers concluded GPs should measure children’s body mass index (BMI) to help curb the growing obesity epidemic.

Professor Russell Viner and research fellow Lee Hudson wrote: “Weight, and especially obesity, has a significant effect on the risk parameters for cardiovascular disease that are present in children from age five years.

“This effect could give them a head start on their normal and even overweight classmates for future cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke.”

Every year, children in year six, aged from 10, are weighed and measured as part of the National Child Measurement Programme.

The results are analysed to see if they fall within a “healthy range” and are sent in a report to parents, along with additional healthy eating and lifestyle information.

Until 18 months ago NHS Oxfordshire, the county’s primary care trust, referred overweight children and their families to the Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do it! (MEND) programme.

The twice weekly sessions combined lessons on healthy eating with fun activities, and aim to educate children between seven and 13 and their parents to change their ways of thinking about food and exercise.

But the classes, which cost around £400 per child, were deemed not cost effective and were scrapped.

Barton mum Lisa Birch attended the classes with daughter Nicole to help with her weight when she was aged around seven .

When Nicole joined she was 4ft 6in and weighed just over seven stone, meaning she was classed as clinically obese. Now, aged 11, she is within a healthy weight range.

Ms Birch told the Oxford Mail the classes had been great. She said: “It was a really helpful programme.

“We learnt a lot as a family about healthy eating and exercise.”