Half of parents don't realise their child is overweight, study reveals

May 2, 2019  22:22

In 1975, there were 11 million boys and girls around the world with obesity. Forty years later, that number has increased to more than 124 million.

Identified by the World Health Organisation as "one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century", childhood obesity was the subject of an analysis presented this week at the European Congress on Obesity.

More than half of parents underestimate how overweight or obese their child is, according to the University of Nottingham research.

"Despite attempts to raise public awareness of the obesity problem, our findings indicate that underestimation of child higher weight status is very common", said the study's leader, PhD student Abrar Alshahrani, in a statement.

"Our study also found a tendency for health professionals to underestimate weight, which suggests that overweight children may not be offered the support they need to ensure good health."

Alshahrani and her colleagues pored over 18 earlier studies conducted between 2000 and 2018 that included almost 25,000 children. Caregivers, children, and healthcare professional's perceptions of the children's weight with bodily measurements used to define overweight and obesity.

Parents of younger children, and parents of boys, were overall less likely to recognise that their child was overweight. Parents who were overweight themselves and who had less education were also less accurate at judging their child's weight.

Alshahrani acknowledged that differing cultural and ethnic standards may also influence whether a parent perceives their child as overweight.

The analysis also hinted at the powerful stigma surrounding body weight: parents were more likely to describe their children with terms like big boned, thick or solid, rather than the blunter obese.

"The results suggest that underestimation of child overweight status is highly prevalent," said Alshahrani. "Identifying weight problems in childhood and adolescence is a unique window of opportunity to have a lifetime impact on health."

Other obesity research presented at the congress suggested that heavier and taller children are more likely to develop some types of cancer as adults; obese people who commute to work by car have a significantly increased risk of early death; and that many healthcare providers mistakenly believe their obese patients are not interested in losing weight.

Source: coach.nine.com.au

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