We have yet further depressing proof of the extent of the unhealthy messages our youngest generation are exposed to on a daily basis.

A report to be presented to the annual meeting of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health reveals that eating disorders can affect children as young as six years-old.

The report is based on a study conducted over 13 months and involving 206 children under 12 years who were treated for an eating disorder in Britain and Ireland – including the six-year-old girl. Half of the children had to be admitted to hospital and 45% had exercised excessively to keep their weight down.

From the results it is estimated that 3.5 children in every 100,000 in the UK are treated for an eating disorder, including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Aound 18 per cent of cases identified were seen in boys, which is a higher proportion than in older age groups.

What is also worrying is that despite evidence that these issues are affecting younger children, the available resources for tackling eating disorders and related problems are not aimed at the under-12s.

So what kind of messages are we giving these children?

It is an issue that is causing widespread concern at present, although realistic solutions are not necessarily forthcoming.

A separate study also casts serious doubt on the Government’s much-trumpeted campaign to reduce child poverty in the UK.

The number of children now living below the poverty line rose by 100,000 last year – the first increase in almost a decade.

Confirmation of the increase fuels the criticism of those campaigners who maintain the announcement made by Gordon Brown in his recent Budget to tackle the issue of child poverty is merely papering over the cracks and not addressing the deep-rooted problems of the last decade and longer.

We are failing our children and reports such as these merely reinforce the fact that the major problems we are creating for ourselves now will continue to haunt us all for many years to come.

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