Parents may not notice when children are overweight

December 21, 2015 in Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Parents may not notice when children are overweight

Many parents don’t realize when their children are overweight and so they fail to help their kids shed excess pounds, an Australian study suggests.

When researchers asked parents to report their child’s height and weight, the results suggested that about 16% of the kids were overweight and 6% were obese.

But when parents were asked if their child’s weight was healthy or unhealthy, only about 8% said they had overweight kids and only 0.2% reported an obese child.

And parents who didn’t recognize a weight problem in their children were less likely to take steps aimed at solving the problem, said on of the researchers.

The research team reviewed data collected from 4,437 parents from 2009 to 2012 as part of the Western Australia Health and Wellbeing Surveillance System. Children ranged in age from five to 15.

Parents were asked: “Is your child underweight, normal weight, overweight or very overweight?” as well as “What are your intentions regarding your child’s weight?”

The majority of parents thought their child's weight was normal, regardless of whether or not this was true based on body mass index.

Every parent who thought their child was obese said they planned to help them achieve a healthy weight, as did about 61% of parents who said their child was overweight.

But when researchers looked at all the parents whose reports indicated that their children need to gain weight or lose weight – whether or not the parents realized it - the picture was worse.

Overall, just 23% of parents of obese children planned to help them lose weight, while more than half of them intended to do nothing.

At the other extreme, 70% of parents of underweight kids had no plans to intervene, the researchers reported.

One shortcoming of the study: its reliance on height and weight reported by parents, rather than measurements taken by clinicians or researchers.

It’s also possible that some parents didn’t truthfully report their perceptions about their child’s weight in the survey.

“Someone who recognizes that their child is overweight may not be willing to say so, even in an anonymous survey,” a scientist said who wasn’t involved in the study.

Source: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, November 11, 2015.

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