Three in five boys born today in the least affluent parts of Britain will be overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, according to shocking new forecasts.
The figures exposing a growing obesity gender gap come amid warnings of a diabetes time-bomb facing the country, with five million people due to be diagnosed by 2020.
The trend – a 42 per cent rise in cases in just five years - follows a decade in which levels of obesity among children have remained stubbornly high.
In the last decade, more than 1.6 million children have become overweight or obese by the time they left primary school, new figures show.
In the next five years, almost 1 million more will be added to their numbers.
The new report shows a widening gender gap in childhood obesity, and a gulf between different sections of society.
'It seems that boys buy into brand loyalty more, buying blindly into what's been presented to them, so if an energy drink links itself with skateboarding and adventures they buy into the idea'Robin Ireland, chief executive at charity the Health Equalities Group
Among the most deprived boys, 60 per cent of those aged five to 11 are forecast to be overweight or obese by 2020. This compares with 16 per cent of those in the most affluent group.
Meanwhile, one in five girls is predicted to be obese or overweight by 2020 - with no differences between the richest and poorest girls.
Experts said boys appeared to be more susceptible than girls to “brand loyalty” - making them vulnerable to marketing of junk foods by sports stars and branded characters.
One in three children is obese or overweight by the time they leave primary school, national figures show
They suggested that young girls were protected by being more diet conscious, while boys were more likely to “blindly buy” into advertising concepts, without thinking about the sugary content.
The head of Cancer Research UK last night said Britain was “sleepwalking” into a crisis which would condemn millions of children to a host of diseases, and threatened to bankrupt the NHS.
Sir Harpal Kumar said it was “outrageous” that the Government had failed to introduce restrictions on junk food advertising during family viewing, which had previously been mooted.
Britain is the second fattest nation in Europe, with almost 25 per cent of Britons classified as obese - compared with a European average of 16.7 per cent. Only Hungary has higher levels of obesity, official data shows.
The new report by the Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of 30 health charities and royal colleges, uses official data on obesity prevalence and deprivation to forecast future trends, with modelling done by the UK Health Forum.
Robin Ireland, chief executive at charity the Health Equalities Group, a member of the Obesity Health Alliance, said: “These statistics show a major gender difference, especially when it comes to the least affluent groups.”
“It seems that boys buy into brand loyalty more, buying blindly into what's been presented to them, so if an energy drink links itself with skateboarding and adventures they buy into the idea,” he said.
“With girls they are often more diet and health conscious, and while that brings its own difficulties, it means they are more aware of what they are consuming,” he said, calling for more research to examine the issues.
Obese children are around five times more likely to become obese adults, research shows.
A separate analysis of NHS data predicts that the number of people with diabetes is set to hit five million by 2020 – a 42 per cent rise in five years.
The study by Exasol suggests that the figure will be reached five years earlier than previous forecasts have suggested, as a consequence of Britain's obesity levels.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We want all children to have a healthy future and are confident our world-leading plan to reduce childhood obesity will make a real difference. "UK restrictions on advertising are already s