With thousands of girls as young as 11 years in one town sporting waists bigger than an overweight woman, childhood obesity is far worse than feared in Britain.
The true extent of the obesity problem is being masked by the reliance of health professionals on the Body Mass Index, a shocking report has revealed.
According to experts, it is time to ditch the Body Mass Index (BMI) and switch instead to measuring waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) to predict health risk.
The problem with the BMI is that it can show that people who are very muscular as obese, when in fact they are having very little body fat.
The study by Leeds Metropolitan University has shown that using BMI measurements alone for children may not reveal the true extent of the problem.
The study had compared BMI, waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio data in 14,697 Leeds school children over three years.
"Widespread use of BMI to assess fatness in children may conceal differences in body composition," the Daily Express quoted Study leader Claire Griffiths, as saying.
It showed that six percent of boys and 15 percent of girls would not have been identified as being at increased risk on the BMI measurement, suggesting that the health risk to 429 boys and 992 girls would have been missed.
Shockingly, at the age of 11, more than 2000 girls in Leeds exceeded a waist line of 31.4 inches (80cm) for increased risk in female adults.
Using WHtR, a waist measurement of 37 inches in adult men and 32 inches in women is seen as significantly raising the risk of having diabetes and heart disease, as well as some cancers.
The study has been published in the journal Obesity.