Children are getting fatter, with more than 2,000 obese youngsters seeking treatment from a public hospital each year for diabetes and sleep disorders.
Medical experts warned yesterday parents cared more about their children's homework than their diet and 'sedentary' lifestyles.
A weight-reduction programme jointly launched by the Chinese University and Tsuen Wan Adventist Hospital successfully reduced the body fat of 100 pupils, aged between eight and 12, selected from three primary schools.
The six-month 'Fun and Fit' programme required participants to perform exercises and games five times a week. The children also observed a healthy diet.
Results released yesterday showed an average 6.4 per cent reduction in fat among participants. Their total blood cholesterol level was lowered by six per cent.
More importantly, 'bad' cholesterol - known as LDL-cholesterol - dropped 11 per cent.
A Primary Six girl lost 9kg - from 64kg to 55kg - and lost 12cm off her waist. She also lost 17 per cent of her body fat.
A Chinese University survey in 1993 reported 10 to 13 per cent of children aged six to 18 weighed more than 120 per cent of the median level.
Professor Gary Wong Wing-kin, of the Chinese University's department of paediatrics, said child obesity was 'very serious'.
He said the Prince of Wales Hospital's growth and endocrinal problems clinics treated at least 2,000 children a year for obesity-related problems and the number was rising.
One-third of these patients were diabetics, while one-fifth had obstructive sleep apnoea, a temporary inability to breathe which could cause suffocation.
'Many of those patients' parents have the same problems. Maybe the parents are too busy, they tell children to exercise but they themselves do not get involved,' said Professor Wong.
Among the most serious cases, a 12-year-old girl weighing 85kg almost lost her sight.
The girl told doctors she would consume eight chicken wings and four soft drinks in one meal.
'The girl came to us complaining of blurred eyesight. Her blood glucose level was four times the normal level,' Professor Wong said.
'She had serious diabetes because she had been eating too much.'