Parents of obese children may not be able to recognise that their kid is overweight unless they are at very extreme levels of obesity, new research led by an Indian-origin scientist shows.
Moreover, the study published in the British Journal of General Practice found that parents are additionally more likely to underestimate their child's weight if they are Black or south Asian, from more deprived backgrounds or if their offspring is male.
"If parents are unable to accurately classify their own child's weight, they may not be willing or motivated to enact the changes to the child's environment that promote healthy weight maintenance," said senior author Dr Sanjay Kinra, reader in clinical epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
The team from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and University College London (UCL) discovered that 31% of parents (915) underestimated whether their child's Body Mass Index (BMI) reading fell in overweight or obese category.
Highlighting this discrepancy, Kinra found that only four parents described their child as being very overweight despite 369 children being officially identified as very overweight according to the BMI cut-off.
"Measures that decrease the gap between parental perceptions of child weight status and obesity scales used by medical professionals may now be needed in order to help parents better understand the health risks associated with overweight and increase uptake of healthier lifestyles," said study co-author professor Russell Viner from UCL's institute of child health.
The identification of gaps between parental perceptions and official guidelines, and variations seen in different demographics of the population, may help us evaluate how effective public health interventions for obesity in children are going to be in different groups of the population, Kinra concluded.