Kids' Neck Sizes Could Indicate Risk of Obesity Disorders

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, Medical Conditions, In The News, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Research Reveals: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Tweens


If the vampires from "Twilight" would look at your child's plump neck and drool, you might have problems.

Kids with chubby necks risk more than joining the army of the undead: They could be fat.

Measuring the circumference of a kid's neck
could provide a quick and easy way to screen him or her for weight problems, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests.

Reuters reports the task force is an influential panel sponsored by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Panel members suggest measuring kids' necks starting at age 6, Reuters reports. They tout that as a simpler test than the body mass index, or BMI, to judge whether or not a person is fat.BMI, the ratio of weight to height, is not always a good indicator of how much body fat a person has, according to the panel.

Kids who are overweight because of body fat -- rather than being buff or big boned -- are a growing concern these days. Michelle Obama has made child obesity her top priority as first lady.

Thus, Reuters reports, researchers are looking for more precise ways to judge fatness. Lead researcher Dr. Olubukola Nafiu of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor tells the news service measuring necks could improve childhood obesity screening.

Measuring kids' waists and necks, he adds, is often a better way to assess a child's risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease when they become adults.

Bellies can swell after a big lunch. Plus, he tells Reuters, kids can keep their clothes on during the assessment.

Nafiu and his colleagues measured weight, height, waist circumference and neck circumference of 1,102 children and teenagers ages 6 to 18. They found that neck size reflected both BMI and waist size.

A 6-year-old boy with a neck circumference greater than 11.2 inches was nearly four times more likely to be overweight as a 6-year-old boy with a smaller neck.

Reuters reports neck measurements might also be helpful for spotting kids at risk of sleep apnea.

Nafiu tells the news service that in earlier studies, he and his colleagues found that children with a high BMI were at relatively greater risk of certain post-surgery problems. They tend to take longer to wake up from anesthesia because the drugs concentrate in body fat.

Related: Michelle Obama Releases Childhood Obesity Recommendations

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.