Researchers from the University College London’s Institute of Education analyzed data about the health of 22,500 children at seven years old, 34,873 at 11 years old, and 26,128 at 15 years old in four groups from 1946 to 2001. Based on the results of the study, poorer children born were both thinner and shorter than children who came from wealthier families.

However, when the millennium rolled in poorer children were taller, but they also had a tendency to be obese and overweight. Earlier studies looked into trends concerning body mass index (BMI), not height and weight separately. This study, which was published in The Lancet Public Health journal, determined that from 1953 to 2015, the discrepancy in children’s BMI levels between children from poor and rich families had expanded. Yet the difference in their height has narrowed and fewer disadvantaged children are shorter.

Dr. David Bann, the study’s lead author, explained that based on the report, earlier policies that were aimed at addressing childhood obesity and poor health via diets failed. He also expressed his doubt that existing policies could effectively change things.

Dr. Bann cautioned that unless effective measures were implemented, “childhood BMI inequalities are likely to widen further throughout adulthood” and that this can result in years of disastrous health and economic consequences.

He concluded, “Bold action is needed, such as creating further incentives for food manufacturers to reduce sugar and fat content in food and drinks, reduce the advertising of unhealthy foods to children and families, and incentivise the sale of healthier alternatives.”

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, shared that a crucial step to resolving this concern is resolving current issues on food affordability, availability, and quality. Fry noted that the end of rationing and improved food accessibility allowed poor families to “catch up in height.”

Fry did acknowledge that one drawback is the staple diet of poor families worsened compared to that of richer families.

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