A new study states that parents with obese children may not be able to recognize that their child is overweight unless they are at very extreme levels of obesity.
According to the study, which was conducted by the researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the UCL Institute of Child Health, many parents may not be aware that their children have a weight problem unless they are extremely obese.
Russell Viner, professor from the Institute of Child Health, and one of the members of the study, said, “Modern parents don’t recognize children as obese. If parents don’t recognize a child is obese then they’re very unlikely to do anything to help their child move to a more healthy weight. Then it’s a potential major public health crisis being stored up.”
For their study, the researchers analyzed data from questionnaires that were filled in by the parents of 2,976 children in five different health regions of the UK that are taking part in the National Child Measurement Program (NCMP). The NCMP has found that about one in five children in the Reception year (age 4-5) is obese, and this proportion rises to about one in three by Year 6 (age 10-11).
The researchers found that nearly a third of parents (915 respondents) underestimated where their child’s BMI sat on the government’s official scale. This scale classifies children as underweight, healthy weight, overweight or very overweight (or obese).
The researchers also discovered that only four parents regarded their child as being very overweight or obese, despite 369 of the children falling into this category. Only in cases where children were at the very high end of the obesity scales were parents more likely to put their child in the right category.
“Measures that decrease the gap between parental perceptions of child weight status and obesity scales used by medical professionals may now be needed in order to help parents better understand the health risks associated with overweight and increase uptake of healthier lifestyles,” added Viner.
The findings were published in the British Journal of General Practice.