Obesity obsession 'means other weight problems missed'

 
Underweight Is there enough focus on underweight children?

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The issue of underweight school children is being missed because of an "obsession" with tackling obesity, a group of researchers has claimed.

An Essex University study, presented at the European Congress on Obesity and involving 10,000 children aged nine to 16, found one in 17 was too thin.

Researcher Dr Gavin Sandercock said weighing too little was more damaging to health than weighing too much.

He warned that society was focused almost exclusively on obesity.

The research team looked at nearly 10,000 children aged nine to 16 in the east of England.

The height, weight, age and gender of the pupils was used to work out how many were too thin.

Start Quote

Where children are severely underweight, it's often due to an underlying illness for which they'll need specialist medical help”

End Quote Dr Hilary Cass

They showed 6% of all children were underweight, but it was more common in girls (6.4%) than boys (5.5%).

There were also large differences between ethnic groups. Asian backgrounds had the highest prevalence of being underweight at 8.7%.

It can lead to a lack of energy, weakened immune systems and delayed periods.

Forgotten problem?

The problem of underweight children "may be more prevalent than we thought in the UK", said the scientists.

They said the fear of becoming obese, rising food prices, poor diets and a lack of muscle from low levels of exercise may all be playing a role.

"The fact is the UK is obsessed with overweight and obesity - yet it is now accepted that underweight may pose a much greater risk to health."

Dr Sandercock said attention had "absolutely" swung too far towards tackling obesity and warned children who were underweight could be being "missed".

He called for better training for GPs to spot the problem and new ways of helping parents.

Research published earlier this year showed that doctors may be missing the problem. University College London academics interviewed paediatricians at 177 hospitals in England and Wales and found a lack of knowledge about the warning signs of children being underweight.

Dr Hilary Cass, the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "Dietary related problems in children are not uncommon, and it's been well documented that childhood obesity is prevalent amongst the UK population.

"Of course we also have to take seriously the fact that there are some children who are under-nourished or struggle with eating disorders."

The Royal College has developed growth charts for children between two and 18 which helps doctors tell if a child has a problem.

Dr Cass said: "Where children are severely underweight, it's often due to an underlying illness for which they'll need specialist medical help.

"But for the majority of cases, if we can get our children eating, choosing and ultimately cooking nutritious food, then we have a much better chance of preventing all sorts of dietary related problems - whether that's being over or underweight."

 

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 222.

    My mother was called rake at school, so was I . My daughter eats like a horse but thin. My other daughter is plump she was born with bigger bones than her sister. We are all different.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 221.

    Look at films taken in the 1940's and 50's. Everyone is thin. It was the norm then, when people ate meals round the table as families. And of course there was rationing. Maybe we should introduce rationing again. More generous rations than in wartime, calculated to give everyone the number of calories they needed and the correct balance of fats proteins and carbs. Ratoning is fair to everyone.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 220.

    yes I would agree that there is too much emphasis on obesity and this doesn't help other weight related problems because it seems to be encouraging people that eating less is better than eating more. healthy eating involves eating all sorts of food, including fats, which are essential in the diet for healthy functioning.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 219.

    Schools should be concentrating on putting pressure on local authorities to make the streets safer so parents and their kids don't just drive to school every day. The epidemic is kids who don't get fresh air and daily exercise, who can't concentrate unless they do a wake and shake is the real problem. People come in all shapes and sizes but they all need fresh air, real food and to move more.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 218.

    Some children just are very thin. My eldest son has always been very tall and very light - that's his body type, however much he eats. He has had various blood tests and there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with him. His uncle is the same - tall and thin in middle age.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 217.

    MR.TRUCULENT SAYS!
    He is not a doctor, but a Farmer, and when he has thin sheep he gives them a dose of Wormming drench. This cures the problem. And he surgests Doctors should do the same to thin female school girls. Problem Solved. As for the Fat Female teenages there is NO HELP when they stuff their fat faces with chips and pizzas . Men prefer thiner girls that Fatties with Tatooes
    E&OE.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 216.

    If schools had kitchens and cooked proper meals instead of hiring companies to give us any old stuff then maybe we wouldn't have all this panic.

    And then if we made school meals compulsory then everybody would be eating.

    But I doubt that's enough but when something isn't enough, instead of putting more effort in loads of people just give up. Depressing.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 215.

    I've been skinny my whole life regardless of what I eat. I really dislike the assumption that because someone's thin they are like that on purpose to look good or adhere to media conventions of beauty. We're not all obsessed with our looks and we can't all help our weight. It's a constant struggle for me to maintain my weight, let alone put any on, and my skinniness really affects my self esteem.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 214.

    The formula for correct weight doesn't take enough account of our different shapes and sizes. The OK weight range is within 20% for a given height, since we put on weight in 2 dimensions this is less than 10% width difference between the widest and narrowest. I'm sure there is more than 10% difference in the width of the skeleton of a very thinly built person and broadly built.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 213.

    Thank God for this study, I have been taking my daughter to school for the last 5 years appalled at the skeletal appearance of so many children.Women especially see 'skinny' as a badge of hounor it's very unhealthy for them and the signals sent to their children,what is the matter with this country where parents are malnourishing their children? This wake up call is dangerously overdue!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 212.

    I am in my 30's, love food, have never eaten low fat anything (and would not eat any artificial sweeteners). I however eat very healthily (mostly organic), walk as much as I can, never take lifts - always stairs etc. My whole life i have been size 8 and touch wood healthy. BTW - low fat food IS NOT FOR CHILDREN. They need fat for their nervous system to develop. Walk them to school, don't drive.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 211.

    Thin and fat are relative terms. As the mean weight increases, so too to the definitions.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 210.

    The C4 programme "Supersize v Superskinny" should be shown in primary schools. Despite the obsession in schools and in the media with the obese, I'm trying to teach her that it's also very unhealthy to be too thin. In all honesty, I'm more concerned with her becoming anorexic than being a little overweight. We just need to teach our children to have a healthy attitude to food.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 209.

    Toddlers are hardly ever overweight because they run & play and would far rather play out than eat. 11 yr olds tend to be overweight as they are starting puberty and lay down fat to protect their bones. 13 yr old are back to normal weight, taller leaner and as long as parents cook properly they will never be fat. One size does not fit all.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 208.

    Thin kids with rickets....the world truly turns full circle..

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 207.

    I've been on both sides of this story, both myself and my sister were monitored by the school nurse because of being under weight and constantly asked if we ate enough at home and now as an adult I would be considered obese.
    People need to be carefull as what is drummed in as kids sticks.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 206.

    Nice to see that so many people commenting have a body that can manipulate the laws of physics
    "I eat all the time, yet I'm so thin"
    "I hardly eat, yet I'm overweight"

    Count the calories you're eating. You'll be surprised. You aren't special, and truly genetic reasons for abnormal weight only account for ~1% of the population

  • rate this
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    Comment number 205.

    There are a lot of problems. Many caused by GP's looking for an easy excuse. He'll grow out of it,only puppy fat, too many pies. They will put it on later etc.
    Why not get a an idea that someone is worried ,that is why they are asking you. Supposedly the first line expert.
    If you don't know, say so. Let someone else do the thinking you are paid for.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 204.

    For gods sake think of the children with normal weight.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 203.

    There may be an obsession about obesity but try finding out what help there is on the NHS to reduce obesity and there is none. Millions is being spent on obesity operations, care, equipment & carers etc but none on actually getting people fit. It wouldn't cost much for the NHS to just have simple fat and thin groups for those with problems but hey that is too simple! It won't make the headlines.

 

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