Obesity Rates May Be Higher as Parents Go Light When Reporting Kid's Weight

Filed under: In The News, Diet & Fitness, Research Reveals: Babies, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Research Reveals: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Tweens, Research Reveals: Teens

Obesity in children

More than 23 million U.S. kids and teenagers are battling obesity. Credit: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Fibbing about your weight on your driver's license? That's practically the norm. Under-reporting how much your kids weigh? Apparently, that's not uncommon, either.

As we enter the first National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, scientists say under-reporting children's weight may be a widespread problem. In fact, estimates of obesity and body mass index (BMI) based on data supplied by parents may actually miss one in five obese children, according to a press release from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Researchers at the organization's annual summer conference compared the height and weight of 1,430 children at an orthopedic clinic with the numbers their parents reported, and found almost half the parents were off on their measurements.

"Parents tend to overestimate boys' height and underestimate girls' height," the study's lead author, Dr. Daniel O'Connor, says in the release, adding that the error was larger when the parent reporting was the opposite sex of the child.
The reporting errors also tended to be larger for girls and in children who were overweight or obese, and increased with the age of the child, the study found.

Ethnicity also plays a role, the authors say, with African-American and Hispanic parents making larger errors than Caucasian and non-Hispanic parents.

These findings are notable in light of soaring obesity rates in all age groups of U.S. children, which show a fourfold increase in kids ages 6 to 11. Nearly 32 percent of American children and teenagers -- more than 23 million -- are overweight or obese, according to the release, which reports that health and medical experts now consider obesity an epidemic in this country.

The findings underscore the importance of September's National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, which was established earlier this year by Congress, and is supported by the American Medical Association (AMA).

"Obesity kills more Americans every year than AIDS, all cancers and all accidents combined," Dr. Mary Anne McCaffree, AMA board member, said in a recent news release. "It is causing health problems in children that were unthinkable 30 years ago. That is why the AMA is working to halt the spread of obesity."

For more information about childhood obesity, visit the Healthier Kids, Brighter Futures website, created for parents in support of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

Related: Lack of Sleep in Babies a Cause of Childhood Obesity, Study Finds

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