A RECORD number of children in Scotland are overweight or obese when they start primary school, with youngsters from the poorest areas most at risk.

The latest figures were condemned as “scandalous” and a “ticking timebomb”

by health experts, who called for a crackdown on junk food advertising and price promotions.

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The latest statistics show the number of five-year-olds overweight or obese has crept up steadily over the past decade, and accounts for 22.9 per cent of Primary 1 pupils. More than one in 10 – 10.5 per cent – are obese, also the highest on record.

Overweight and obesity rates range from one in every five children among the most affluent areas to a peak of one in four among children from the most deprived postcodes. It is highest, at 29.3 per cent, in the Dumfries and Galloway region.

Analysis: Obesity in the young leads to illness as an adult

It comes as a consultation by the Scottish Government proposes measures to curb the obesity crisis, including world-first laws to ban retailers from selling junk food at knockeddown prices or on multi-buy deals.

The consultation closes next month.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s cancer prevention expert, based at Stirling University, said the figures on childhood obesity underlined the need for tough action.

She said: “It’s scandalous we are living in a country where so many very young children are becoming overweight and obese. A great deal more must be done urgently to reverse this trend and protect our children from a lifetime of ill-health. An obese child is five times more likely to be an obese adult. Obesity is also linked to 13 types of cancer. We owe it to our children to protect their health as well as stopping obesity from burdening society and the NHS.”

The figures for Scotland are broadly similar to those in England, where 22.6 per cent of children starting school were overweight or obese in 2016/17 – including 9.6 per cent who were obese.

Professor Steve Turner, officer for Scotland at the Royal College of Scotland at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said the results were disappointing but “not surprising”, adding that junk food marketing should be outlawed before the 9pm watershed.

He said: “This is preventable.

It is too easy to eat junk food and not exercise.

Items such as chocolate, cake, biscuits are available in most shops and although these are termed ‘discretionary’ (or optional) items, they are no longer seen as a ‘treat’.

“Advertising pushes us to believe it is normal to eat junk food when you walk to school, attend a public event or in your homes when you switch on the television or your mobile.”

Analysis: Obesity in the young leads to illness as an adult

Lorraine Tulloch, programme lead of Obesity Action Scotland said “Childhood obesity is a ticking timebomb of health problems. It is difficult for families to make healthy choices when they are bombarded by advertising, marketing and price promotions on junk food.”

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said the interventions laid out in the Scottish Government’s diet and obesity consultation would help people make healthier choices.

She said: “This includes measures to change the food environment and improve children’s diets ...

as well as offering advice to parents on healthy food and health eating patterns, starting pre-pregnancy.”