In a groundbreaking study by Oxford University, researchers have suggested that the obesity epidemic in young people can be reversed by stricter parenting. 

The results of the study come after Leeds became the first city in England to report a decline in the number of young people developing weight problems. This was due to an eight-week parenting programme offered in the city that taught parents how to "take charge". 

The initiative is aimed at lower income areas and costs councils £50 per family. 

Obesity rates among 10-11 year-olds in the UK are at an all-time high, according to most recent figures, with more than 4% of young people in that age group obese. As well as this, obesity rates among five-year-olds in England remained unchanged -between 2013-14 and 2016-17, at around 9.4 percent.

Obesity is rising in the UK and Ireland

For this reason, the drop from 9.4% to 8.8% over the same period in Leeds is particularly encouraging. In a group of 15 English cities, Leeds was the only city with such a result. 

To date, 6,000 families in Leeds have received the lessons, with 625 children a year "saved" from obesity.

Professor Susan Jebb, of Oxford University and who is the Government's former obesity tsar, said: "If you look at it by deprivation, the most deprived group in Leeds is doing especially well. That is astonishing."

According to her, children's centre workers, health staff and visitors in Leeds are trained to assist parents in monitoring healthy eating and can refer them to classes if they feel it will help. 

"It's about helping parents find solutions", Jebb said. "None of us are born with parenting skills. Most of us have to make it up as we go along."

Central to these classes is the lesson that parents can be "in charge", and establish healthy boundaries that will allow their children to develop into healthier people. 

Parents are encouraged to take charge when it comes to their children and food

"We want -parents to be able to hold boundaries, so they are able to say 'no' to pester power around snacks", said Kim Roberts, chief executive of the Health Exercise Nutrition for the Really Young scheme adopted in Leeds, as quoted in The Telegraph

The UK government is buckling down on tackling the growing obesity crisis, with ministers saying that programmes to prevent obesity in toddlers will make up a core part of a Green Paper this summer. 

In Ireland, we're not faring much better: with one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe, one in four adults are now classed as obese and one in four children already overweight.