A new study released Monday by University of Nebraska researchers found more than half of parents with overweight or obese children don't think their kids fit in either of these categories, according to a report on the study by USA Today.
Researchers conclude the denial or ignorance by parents on the weight of their children could very well be a factor in the early age obesity problem. For example, in some cases parents said that they believed the excess weight of their children was merely baby fat that would be worked off naturally.
"As kids get older, parents realize it's not just baby fat any more, and the kids are not going to grow out of it," said Alyssa Lundahl, a graduate student in the clinical psychology program at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
The review of 69 studies involving almost 16,000 children, ages 2 to 18, will be in the March issue of Pediatrics.
The USA Today report came a week after an article in the New England Journal of Medicine said children who enter kindergarten overweight are four times more likely than children with normal weight to be obese by age 14.
The study published Jan. 29 measured the average weight of kindergarten kids from 1998-1999 — the mean age was about 5 — and found that 12.4 percent were already obese and 14.9 were overweight. Measuring that same group in the eighth grade — about 14 years of age — showed that 20.8 percent were obese and 17 percent were overweight.
Obesity and overweight categories are distinguished by a person's body mass index, or BMI, which is a weight-to-height index.
"If we can help the child not become overweight by age five, their chances of becoming obese are so much lower," commented Dr. Ihuoma Eneli to Reuters Health on the study by the Journal of Medicine, though not directly involved in it.
Eneli, the medical director at the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, believes that the research will help pediatricians identify and look for the signs of obesity earlier in their patients.
An article in Forbes, however, argues that there seems to be no proposed solution by the study published in the Journal of Medicine.
"Focusing efforts on kids who are already overweight or obese at a very young age, perhaps in the preschool years, is really the key, they say. But what that consists of is unclear," wrote Alice Walton for Forbes. "Some studies have shown early weight interventions to be effective, while others have been less encouraging."
Weight intervention programs that currently exist for kids take time and are usually not covered by health insurance, Walton wrote.
She does agree that looking for a solution in preschool children as opposed to elementary and middle school will be good for future health campaigns, but that the best thing to be done now is to instruct parents on how to feed their kids correctly and keep them physically active.
In a report on the study by the Journal of Medicine, the New York Times identified other multiple factors that cause obesity in children, including race, ethnicity, family income, birth weight and, in some cases, genetics.
Sam Clemence works as an editorial assistant with the opinion section staff and as a reporter for the enterprise team.