Overweight or just big boned?

Matt Woodley

30/04/2019 2:11:11 PM

The tendency to underestimate the weight of children is widespread and impacting attempts to combat the growing problem, new research has found.

Mother and daughter
More than half of all parents tend to underestimate the weight of their child.

According to the University of Nottingham study, parents, children and doctors are all guilty of downplaying weight issues in patients aged under 19, potentially leading to long lasting health effects.
‘Despite attempts to raise public awareness of the obesity problem, our findings indicate that underestimation of child higher weight status is very common,’ lead researcher Abrar Alshahrani said.
‘This misperception is important because the first step for a health professional in supporting families is a mutual recognition of higher weight status. This is particularly important for the child themselves, the parents, and the health professionals who look after them.
‘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.’
The findings, presented at the European Congress on Obesity, were derived from a systematic review and meta-analysis of 87 studies conducted worldwide between 2000 and 2018, involving 24,774 children aged 0–19 years and their parents.
More than half (55%) of parents underestimated the degree of overweight in their children, while more than one third (34%) of children and adolescents also underestimated their own weight status. Healthcare professionals shared this misperception, but limited studies prevented quantification.
Dr James Best, Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Child and Young Person’s Health network, told newsGP while he could understand highlighting concerns related to a child’s weight could be difficult, it is part of a GP’s role.
‘It’s the responsibility of the doctor to both screen and identify overweight and obese children, and to try and address these issues because they obviously do have very significant health consequences – both physical and emotional,’ he said.
‘Obese children really should be screened for conditions like early onset pre diabetes and diabetes, hypertension and metabolic syndrome, so running away from the terms ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ is not doing anyone any favours.’
Worldwide, there has been a more than 10-fold increase in the number of children and adolescents with obesity in the past four decades, increasing from five million girls in 1975 to 50 million in 2016, and from six million to 74 million boys.
In Australia, one in five children aged 2–3 are considered overweight or obese, which increases to one in three by the time they become teenagers.
Aside from potential physiological problems, recent University of Liverpool research confirmed high body mass index (BMI) and mental ill-health develop together increasingly, and present a combined health risk for children from mid-childhood.
An analysis of data collected from more than 17,000 children taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study shows obesity and emotional problems tend to occur together in mid-childhood and adolescence, from ages 7–14, but not in early childhood.
Almost 8% of young people in the study were obese by age 14, and around double that number were reported to have had feelings of low mood and anxiety. By adolescence around one fifth of those who were obese also had high levels of emotional distress.
Study co-author Dr Charlotte Hardman said while the study did not reveal why obesity and mental ill health develop together during childhood, it did show an increasing association between the health conditions.
‘We can hypothesise that children with higher BMI may experience weight-related discrimination, which over time leads to increased depressive symptoms, as has been shown in adults,’ she said.
‘Our findings highlight the importance of early interventions that target both weight and mental health, and minimise negative outcomes later in childhood.’

childhood obesity mental health

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Rosalie Schultz   1/05/2019 8:15:16 AM

The normalisation by parents and doctors of overweight kids reflects the normalisation of our obesogenic society. We expect to see ads for junk food on our screens and promoted in our streets, to drive as main form of transport, even when it's less than 2km, and we believe that kids are more at risk playing freely outside than sitting safely inside .

A societal problem needs government action, not blaming parents, kids or health care providers.

Anne-Thea McGill   1/05/2019 8:29:34 AM

By far the most important area is using the MARKERS of metabolic stress carefully. Central and neck thickness in children indicated DEFICIENT MICROnutrient intake and disturbed metabolism.
Subcutaneous rolls of fat in babies and infants with slim neck, healthy. THIS IS ‘puppy fat’ - benign.
The DIETS need improving BUT not to the current recommendations. The starchy grain and white potato products, INcluding the so called staples, need replacing by coloured 😋 tasty more heritage foods, where the nutrients are.
Ultra processed foods (and their not healthy packaging) are THE problem.