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Bigger meals later in day ‘risk making children fat’

FEEDING children their biggest meals at lunch and dinner could be making them fat, researchers say.

Experts found that eating calorie-loaded meals later in the day had an impact on size even years later. And scientists warned skipping breakfast would also have a detrimental effect on children’s weight.

Scientists at the University of Porto in Portugal analysed three-day food diaries of 1,961 four-year-olds then re-examined their weight aged seven.

Factors that may affect the results, such as a mother’s age and education, were taken into account.

The team concluded that ‘having a relatively higher energy intake at lunch and supper or at mid-afternoon at four-years-old was associated with higher odds of developing overweight/obesity at seven’.

A relatively higher intake of fat at lunch increased the risk of a child being overweight or obese at age seven by 17 per cent, they said.

A higher proportion of energy intake at main meals and a lower proportion during the afternoon and evening ‘seems to be more beneficial for children’s weight’, said the team, who presented peer-reviewed data at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow.

Prof Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: ‘With one in three children overweight or obese by the time they start primary school, this useful research provides additional insight into factors that could be contributing to the UK’s obesity crisis.’

But he said: ‘Appropriate portion sizes and a varied diet with at least one hour’s exercise a day is the best way of maintaining a healthy weight now and in the future.’