Advent of chocolate calendars adding to obesity crisis

“Be selective about how much chocolate your child eats before Christmas and beyond.”

That’s the message from local GP Dr Zahid Chauhan who is warning that the festive peak in treats (which now includes 25 plus chocolates in advent calendars) could make children more obese – at a time when a third of 2-15 year-olds in the UK are already dangerously overweight.

The Failsworth family doctor, who has issued similar pleas in the run-up to Ramadan and Eid this year, believes that celebration should be tempered with moderation if we want to keep our children healthy.

Dr Chauhan said: “Festivals should be about joy not binge, and that message applies to both adults consuming alcohol and children eating chocolate. We are being bombarded with unhealthy food and drink and that problem is not helped by a seemingly unregulated manufacturing industry that fills fizzy drinks with twenty spoonfuls of sugar. And where we once had advent calendars with doors that opened to a picture to remind us of the Christmas story, now they reveal another chocolate to be consumed!”

Recent figures published in The Oldham Chronicle (“Chewing the fat on youth obesity crisis” 8th November 2016) showed that a third of Oldham children are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school. Studies have shown that Britain has the sweetest tooth in Europe – accounting for a third of the chocolate market. Eight million Brits admit to eating chocolate every single day. We consume a whopping 7,000 calories each Christmas Day with over 2,700 of those coming from sweets and snacks BEFORE the Christmas Dinner.

“Added to the excess of Christmas itself we now have an elongated run up to the festive period which begins in autumn!” continued Dr Chauhan. “In no way am I trying to say don’t enjoy yourselves but we have to be responsible, particularly when it comes to children and eating sweets. Our NHS resources are stretched including in dentistry with GPs often having to fill-in because of demand.

“Going forward we need to get our priorities right when it comes to dealing with childhood obesity. We spend more each year on the treatment of conditions such as diabetes than we do on the police, fire service and judicial system combined. Yet our spend on campaigns to curb obesity is pitiful, there is no financial incentive to buy healthier food and not enough sanctions on manufacturers to make sure they produce and advertise responsibly.

Childhood obesity is a form of neglect and a national threat like cybercrime or even terrorism and it is up to all of us to act now and ensure our children’s future is a happy and healthy one.”