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Many Parents Blind to Their Child's Weight

Even as U.S. youngsters get heavier, moms and dads think they look about right, surveys find

MONDAY, May 11, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Many parents of overweight preschoolers believe their children are appropriately sized, a new study finds.

"The results are consistent with past studies in which a considerably high number of parents incorrectly perceived their overweight/obese preschool child as being 'just about the right weight,' " study author Dustin Duncan, an assistant professor of population health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said in an NYU news release.

Researchers analyzed data from American parents who took part in nationwide surveys from 1988 to 1994 and 2007 to 2012. The first survey group included parents of over 3,800 children and the second survey group included parents of nearly 3,200 children.

The parents were asked if they considered their children -- aged 2 to 5 -- to be underweight, the right weight, or overweight.

Among parents of overweight boys, 97 percent of those in the first survey group and 95 percent of those in the second survey group believed their sons were about the right weight, the findings showed.

Among parents of overweight girls, 88 percent in the first survey group and 93 percent in the second survey group believed their daughters were about the right weight, according to the study in the April online edition of the journal Childhood Obesity.

The kids in the second survey group were much more overweight than those in the first survey group. Therefore, the finding that parents' perception of their children's weight remained relatively unchanged is alarming, the study authors said.

The researchers pointed out that the study findings are important because parents who recognize that their children are overweight are more likely to help their youngsters slim down.

Black and low-income parents were most likely to consider their overweight children to be the right weight, the investigators found.

"This was especially concerning because African American and low-income children in the U.S. have the highest rates of obesity," Duncan said in the news release.

One way to tackle high childhood obesity rates in the United States is to get parents to recognize when their children are overweight, said study senior author Dr. Jian Zhang, an associate professor of epidemiology at Georgia Southern University.

"We need effective strategies to encourage [health care provider] discussions with parents about appropriate weight for their child. This will be critical for childhood weight management and obesity prevention," Zhang said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about childhood overweight and obesity.

SOURCE: NYU Langone Medical Center, news release, May 6, 2015
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