Telling parents of young children they’re overweight, obese bad for their health –

Posted: December 4, 2019 at 11:43 am

Telling parents of children as young as four they're overweight or obese could be bad for their health, new research has found.

Unhealthy body mass index (BMI) results from the B4 School Check could potentially result in those children gaining more weight in the future.

"Recent research shows that telling parents their child is in the overweight or obese BMI category may actually cause the child to gain proportionally more weight over time, even if they were not really overweight to begin with," the study from the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) read.

Using BMI as an indicator for a child's healthwas also found to be "particularly inaccurate" for Pasifika,Moriand Asian children.

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The B4 School Check, which calculated a child's body mass index (BMI) based on their height and weight, alerted parents to their child's current weight range - underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese.


A study from the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) found highlighting a child is overweight or obese, according to their BMI, could cause weight gain in the future.

One parent said the test, which found her active four-year-old was overweight, was "ridiculous".

In 2017, mum Rachell Bisset toldStuffall 124 people she spoke to online about her son's results said they experienced the same issue with their check.

At 23.5 kilograms and 110 centimetres tall, young James was classified as overweight.

So what should parents do if their child's B4 School results indicated they were overweight or obese. Not much, according to dieticians.

Nutritionist Jennifer Bowden previously said it was best to avoid diets for children as there was "an increased risk of eating disorders and also of them becoming more overweight".


Timaru mother Rachel Bisset with her son James, 4, was surprised when his B4 School check showed he was overweight in 2017.

"What you need to be focussed on is creating a healthy lifestyle for your child within your own home and family. If you've created a healthy lifestyle for them, then you don't worry about their weight, you leave them alone and respect the fact that different children are going to be different sizes."

Bowden explained children's weight regularly fluctuate as they developed.

The study's author suggested families have a conversation with health professionals about healthy living, rather than referring their kids for treatment.

Previous research found New Zealand to be the second-worst in the OECD for child obesity, with 39 per cent of Kiwi kids classified as overweight or obese. The only country with a higher obesity rate was the United States, with 42 per cent of children aged 5 to 19 obese.

Some professionals believedKiwis had found a way to normalise childhood obesity.

"Obesity is becoming normalised, we don't see it anymore and the consequences of continuing this trend are going to be dreadful," Christchurch-based dietitian Lea Stening previously told Stuff.

The B4 School Check wasn't just about measuring a child's weight range, it also focused on vision, hearing and health tests, strengths and difficulties, and behavioural issues.

It asked parents about a child's behaviour, if they often lost their temper, were easily distracted, generally liked by others, and if they were nervous or clingy in new situation. It ratedchildren as normal, abnormal or borderline, and produced a score indicating whether they were likely to have a significant problem.

The results couldbe broken down for pro-social behaviour, hyperactivity, emotional symptoms, conduct and peer disorders.

Do you think we should be labelling children's weight range and mental health so young? Let us know in the comments below.

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Telling parents of young children they're overweight, obese bad for their health -

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