STATESBORO, Ga. — Parents are increasingly unable to tell when their children have a weight problem, according to a new study.
The study, published Aug. 25 in the journal Pediatrics, found that parents interviewed between 2005 and 2010 were 24 percent less likely to spot a weight problem in their child than parents interviewed between 1988 and 1994.
“The society as a whole is stuck with a vicious cycle,” senior study author Dr. Jian Zhang, an associate professor of epidemiology at Georgia Southern University, told Healthday. “Parents incorrectly believe their kids are healthy, they are less likely to take action, and so it increases the likelihood that their kids will become even less healthy.”
Obesity has more than doubled among children aged 6 to 11, rising from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2012, researchers said.
More than three-quarters of parents interviewed in the 2005-2010 survey perceived their overweight children as “about the right weight” — 83 percent for boys and 78 percent for girls, researchers reported.
Increasingly, pediatricians will have to be direct or even forceful with parents in an effort to make them recognize the problem, said Amanda Staiano, director of the Pediatric Obesity and Health Behavior Laboratory at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.
“Parents see doctors as an authority figure, and we see success with weight loss interventions and treatments when a pediatrician is involved,” she said. “It’s paramount that every time a child comes in for a visit, the pediatrician reviews the child’s height and weight, and discusses how they are doing with their parents.”
The new study relies on data gathered during the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which has been conducted at regular intervals by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since the early 1960s.
In the survey, parents of children aged 6 to 11 are asked whether they considered their child to be overweight, underweight or just about the right weight. CDC technicians then measure the child’s weight and height, and use those to calculate their body-mass index.