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Parents blind to kids' obesity

The number of obese children has quadrupled in Finland since the 1970s, finds a new study.

More and more kids are carrying extra weight.
Image: Varga György / EPA

Only half of Finnish parents recognise their children’s obesity, suggests fresh research.

Pediatrician Nina Vuorela of Tampere University Hospital, who studied the weight of 5 and 12-year-olds for her doctoral dissertation, found that while there had been little weight fluctuation among 5-year-olds, fifth graders had significantly packed on the pounds in the past decades.

“At the moment 10 percent of 5-year-old girls and 20 percent of boys are overweight or obese. For school age kids the corresponding figures are 25 percent of boys and 20 percent of girls,” Vuorela explained.

Previous research has indicated that girls start putting on weight at an earlier age than boys, who tend to be more physically active.

Skinny babies

While preschoolers and preteens are getting pudgier, Vuorela says she was surprised that toddlers’ weights are going down. This may be due to today’s parents increasingly cutting fat from babies’ diets.

“Toddlers eat a lot of industrial baby food,” she pointed out.

Research findings show that heavy toddlers have difficulty shedding the extra weight later in life. Half of chunky toddlers are overweight or obese by the age of 15.

“Sixty to seventy percent of overweight kids will carry extra fat as adults,” she said.

But despite the ballooning issue, parents are reluctant to face up to the fact that their children may need a lifestyle change.

Three quarters of the parents of the cherubic 5 year-olds and half of those of the hefty 12-year olds don't believe their tots need to slim down.

In addition to an increased risk of developing heart disease, Vuorela points out that a child starting school 5 kilos overweight will face greater difficulty developing motor skills than their trim classmates. 

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