|As the U.S. suffers from an often discussed obesity epidemic, parents are perceiving their children’s weight as “about right,” even when there is clear evidence to the contrary, according to a new study published in the medical journal Childhood Obesity.
Researchers from the New York University Langone Medical Center analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) project that involved thousands of children between 1988 and 1994, and again between 2007 and 2012.The study found that 95-97% of parents who have overweight boys, and 88-93% of parents who have overweight girls, thought their children were within a normal weight range. Although children in the later data set were significantly heavier than in the earlier one, the perceptions of parents did not noticeably change.
The implications of this situation are not good. According to the CDC, children and adolescents who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults, and are therefore at a higher risk for adult health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and several types of cancer. The CDC cites a study suggesting that even children as young as two years old were more likely to be obese as adults.
To make matters even worse, portions have been getting bigger for years. According to a study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, portion sizes both at home and in restaurants increased dramatically between 1977 to 1996. The portion size of hamburgers increased by a whopping 23%, while soft drink sizes grew 52%, and snacks by 60%.
So not only are parents blind to the fact that their children are overweight, but they’re also feeding them too much, making the problem worse — and making their children more likely to become obese adults.
Maryland specifically might not have the worst obesity rates in the nation, but it’s far from being the best. According to data from the Trust for American’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s State of Obesity project, Maryland has the 21st highest obesity rate amongst 10- to 17-year-olds with a 15.1% obesity rate for that age range.
Basically, if Maryland hopes to improve, parents need to take a realistic look at their children, and take the necessary steps to help them.