Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 28th 2014 Contents B52
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Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, August 28, 2014
Between 1988 and 2010, the number of parents
who could correctly identify their children as over-
weight or obese went down, according to a new
"Today, almost one out of every three kids is over-
weight or obese," said senior author Dr Jian Zhang of
the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia
Southern University in Statesboro. "They are at sig-
nificantly increased risk of a number of diseases as
they grow older, including diabetes, cardiovascular
disease, osteoarthritis and cancer."
The first step to dealing with any problem is, of
course, being aware of it, he said.
Zhang and his team examined height and weight
data on 2,871 children, ages six to 11, from the 1988
to 1994 National Health and Nutrition Examination
Survey and 3,202 similar kids from the 2005 to 2010
cycles of the survey.
In all cases, the children s parents were asked if
they considered their child "overweight, underweight,
just about the right weight,
or don t know."
In the 1988 to 1994 data
set, 78 per cent of parents
of an overweight boy and
61 per cent of parents of an
overweight girl, identified
the child as "about the right
weight." That number
increased to 83 per cent for
boys and 78 per cent for girls
in the 2005 to 2010 period.
Similarly, for obese boys,
26 per cent of parents said they were "about the right
weight" in 1988 compared to 37 per cent in 2010,
according to results in Pediatrics.
Like their parents, many kids also identify themselves
as about the right weight even if they are overweight
or obese, and those kids are less likely to try to lose
The increasing trend of weight underestimation is
alarming, Zhang told Reuters Health by e-mail.
"Studies overwhelmingly show that parental per-
ceptions of their child s weight influence family readi-
ness to foster healthy behaviours and increasingly
underestimating puts more kids at the risk of becoming
overweight or obese," he said.
Other studies have shown that overweight adults
are increasingly not perceiving themselves as over-
weight, said Mary A Burke, a senior economist in the
research department of the Federal Reserve Bank of
Burke was not part of the new study.
The misclassification rate was quite high for both
time periods, she told Reuters Health by phone.
"For six to 11-year-old children, a lot of parents
could say I m waiting to make a pronouncement
because kids are always changing, they may grow out
of it ," she said.
And "about the right weight" could reasonably
include some kids who are slightly overweight but
close to the healthy weight category, she said.
"Misperception among obese children is most
important," Burke said.
And though it seems logical that parents who more
accurately perceive their kids weight will be more
ready to try to change an overweight child s behaviour,
it may not be that simple, she said.
"It s not clear that if a doctor hammers home that
a child is overweight, the parent will have more readi-
ness to help child engage in more healthful behaviours,"
"Do you really need to change parental perception
first? It may be more effective to promote healthier
behaviours among all kids," she said.
Some people mistrust growth charts, she said, but
most accept that good health behaviours like eating
right and exercising apply to them, Burke said.
Parental perceptions might be changing over time
as obesity becomes more common, since people gen-
erally judge themselves (and their children) against
the people around them, she said.
It is also possible that more parents are unwilling
to admit their children are overweight due to the
increasing stigma of obesity, Zhang said.
The Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and
Obesity provides helpful tips to help children maintain
a healthy weight and growth charts for interpreting
their weight class, available here, he noted. (Reuters)
More parents think their
overweight child is 'about right'
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
Most parents don't realise their children could be overweight.
"It's not clear that
if a doctor
that a child is
parent will have
more readiness to
help child engage
in more healthful
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