cookingclassA US healthy habits programme has offered a glimmer of hope that obesity in the young can be reversed.

Low-income school districts took part in the two-year initiative, which included offering more nutritious food choices - including calorie information in dining rooms and in vending machines - and a wider choice of physical activities. As a result, obesity rates fell by 17%.

The findings, published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tracked school districts in King County, Washington, reported that obesity rates remained the same for those who did not take part.

So far, the healthy message is showing promise, with some schools offering a new one-mile walk zone so children can walk to school safely, and a Commit To Fit Campaign which had more than 6,000 students tracking their nutritional and physical exercise choices.

Dr. Jim Krieger, head of Chronic Disease at Public Health - Seattle & King County, said: "Preventing obesity is about more than individual choices. It takes positive changes in the places where people live, learn, work and play to make a difference."

The most recent large-scale study in the UK reveals that a total of 25% of boys and 33% of girls aged between two and 19 are overweight or obese, which costs the country around £2billion every year. Some experts fear that current statistics mean that parents could outlive their children.