Many Overweight Kids Not Realistic About Weight

Obese and overweight youth often believe they do not have a weight problem

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) About one third of US children and adolescents are overweight or obese, the CDC reports. Many, however, may be in denial about how much they weigh.

Obese youth are more likely to have heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure. They’re also more likely to face health problems like diabetes and stroke as adults.

Many kids and young teens, however, had a misperception about how much they weighed, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A large majority of those who were overweight didn’t think they were too heavy.

"Maintain a healthy weight to lower heart disease risk."

The study was conducted by Neda Sarafrazi, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, MD, and colleagues.

Dr. Sarafrazi and team looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The survey was designed to assess the health and nutritional status of US citizens.

The report included information collected from 2005 to 2012 on more than 6,100 young people between the ages of 8 and 15.

Among their key findings, the investigators discovered that about 8 out of 10 overweight boys and 7 out of 10 overweight girls thought they were at the right weight. About 48 percent of boys who were categorized as obese believed they had a normal weight, and 36 percent of obese girls thought they weighed the right amount.

A child's weight status is calculated according to CDC growth charts that indicate what a “normal” body mass index should be for different sexes at different ages. Children’s body compositions change as they age and vary between boys and girls.

The researchers also highlighted that weight misperception was higher among Mexican-American and black youth compared to non-Hispanic white children. Just over a third of Mexican-American kids and just over a third of non-Hispanic black children had the wrong impression about their weight status, compared to about 28 percent of non-Hispanic white youth.

Many normal-weight children and adolescents also had the wrong idea about their weight. About 9 percent of those considered to be a healthy weight thought they were too thin, and 4 percent thought there were too fat.

“Accurate self-perception of weight status has been linked to appropriate weight control behaviors in youth,” the authors concluded. “Understanding the prevalence of weight status misperception among US children and adolescents may help inform public health interventions.”

Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.

This National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief was published in July on the CDC website. The researchers reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 28, 2014
Last Updated:
July 28, 2014