THURSDAY, July 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Parents of obese
children often don't view their kids as unhealthy or recognize the
health consequences of excess weight or inactivity, according to a
The children of the families surveyed for the new research were
attending an obesity clinic at the Hasbro Children's Hospital in
"A third categorized their child's health as excellent or very good," said study researcher Dr. Kyung Rhee, now an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego.
Rhee surveyed slightly more than 200 families in 2008 and 2009
to evaluate their readiness to help their children lose weight. She
found that 28 percent of the parents did not perceive their child's
weight as a health concern. But experts know that childhood obesity
has both immediate and long-term ill effects on health, including
risks for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Thirty-one percent of the parents thought their child's health
was excellent or very good.
Parents were more likely to try to improve their children's
eating habits than to increase exercise, Rhee found. While 61
percent said they were trying to improve eating habits, just 41
percent said they were increasing their child's activity level.
If parents were obese, they were less likely to be helping their
children change. Most of the children, 94 percent, were obese, and
their pediatrician referred them to the clinic for help in slimming
down. The other 6 percent were overweight.
The study was published online recently in the
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Rhee said the findings are similar to a study she did in 2005,
asking about parents' readiness to change their child's behavior if
the child needed to lose weight.
The parents' own weight status affected how willing they were to
make changes in their children's eating habits. "The parents who
thought their own weight was a health problem were less likely to
make changes in a child's diet," Rhee said.
She can't say why this is, because the survey did not ask. But
Rhee suspects that the parents may have been discouraged by their
own failed attempts at dieting.
In the study, the average age of the children and teens was
about 14, but ranged from 5 to 20.
While income, race or ethnicity didn't have a bearing on whether
parents were trying to improve their child's diet, income did play
a role in whether parents encouraged exercise. Those who made less
than $40,000 a year were less likely to encourage exercise. The
survey didn't ask the reasons why.
Dr. William Muinos, director of the weight management program at
Miami Children's Hospital, reviewed the findings of the study.
"There is a lot of fact to this study that I experience every day
[with parents]," he said.
Parents often tell Muinos their children will ''grow out'' of
their weight problem, and he tells them that is hazardous thinking.
Research has found that children who are obese are likely to be
obese as adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
Muinos tells parents of overweight children that starting early
with a good diet and a regular physical activity is crucial. "Early
intervention is key both in establishing good eating habits and
exercise," he said.
To learn more about childhood obesity, visit
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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