A new Government-funded study has shown that nearly a quarter of pre-school children are overweight or obese.

The study was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and conducted by researchers from UCC and UCD as part of the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance.

It found that 23% of children between one and four are above the recommended weight for their age.

The survey shows that children in this age-group increase their intake of soft drinks, biscuits and confectionery while they often consume whole milk rather than low fat.

Many children are given processed meat instead of fresh meat, white bread rather than wholemeal, and fruit juice instead of whole fruit.

The study also found that salt intake by under fours is also too high, while they are not getting enough Iron or Vitamin D.

However, children in this age group are getting adequate fibre

The report says years one to four are habit-forming years and it is important to help children to maintain a healthy body weight.

The report's authors say new healthy eating guidelines are now needed for parents and carers of this age group.

A lot of what the report recommends is common sense - there should be proper portion sizes, lower amounts of salt and sugar, and higher intake of fruit, vegetables and vitamins.