As many as half of all children in middle school may be overweight or at risk of becoming overweight, according to the results of a new U.S. study. However, the results of a study from the UK indicate that many parents do not see a problem.
What's most troubling is that "most were unconcerned" about their children's weight, said the senior research nurse on the study. The results of both the US and UK studies were presented Friday at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association in Orlando.
About a third of obese girls and about half of obese boys were considered to weigh "about right" by their parents, the team found in a study of 300 children and their families. Moreover, a third of mothers and half of fathers who were overweight or obese themselves considered their own weight to be "about right."
Children were no better at judging their weight. When asked to rate themselves based on body mass index (BMI), a measure that takes into account weight and height, 51 percent of children underestimated their BMI.
Part of the problem, is that "overweight is now seen as the norm." A UK researcher noted that some parents of normal-weight children were concerned that their children were underweight.
In the American study, which included 1,700 eighth-grade students, nearly 50 percent were overweight or were at risk of being overweight.
The researchers also found that about 40 percent of children had pre-diabetes, which is marked by above-normal levels of blood glucose. In addition, nearly half of the students had low levels of HDL, the "good" form of cholesterol, and many had blood pressure that was above normal for their age.
Although only a few students had diabetes, the widespread presence of pre-diabetes and other risk factors meant that children might be at risk of developing diabetes down the road.
It is important to promote a healthy lifestyle during childhood because the health behaviours children develop often continue throughout their lives.
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