Recent studies conducted by different team of researchers in the UAE show that very few parents in the UAE are aware that their child is obese.

Dr Eideh Al Shehhi, co-author of the study, Prevalence and risk factors of obesity in children aged 2—12 years in the Abu Dhabi Islands said, “Most people thought of obesity as an adult issue.”

Researchers found that only one out of six parents of obese children correctly identified their child’s weight. Nearly 40 per cent defined their obese child’s weight was a “normal,” with another 41.7 per cent calling their child overweight and only 2.1 per cent observing their child as underweight.

The prevalence of overweight and obese children in Abu Dhabi continues to rise as parents fail to recognize, or underestimate, the weight problems of their children,

Dr Al Shehhi found that parents of obese children often misinterpreted their child’s weight as growth, with many saying “they are children, they have to eat, they have to gain weight because they are growing.”

According to Dr Noora Al Ali, one of the study’s authors parents who fail to recognize their child has a weight problem will also fail to help them get healthy as it plays a major role because if the parent is not aware, they will not act on this problem, so their children will continue to have obesity and maybe more complications in the future.

In another research conducted by King’s College Hospital, London in the UAE discovered 1 in 5 parents did not know what a BMI (Body Mass Index) measurement was, or that it is a key indicator of childhood obesity.

The survey found that parents in the UAE are sleepwalking into an obesity crisis and 87 per cent do not realize diet has an impact on their child’s BMI.

Only 140 of the 500 parents surveyed knew their child’s BMI, of which 72 per cent said their child had a healthy weight for their age, with 28 per cent of parents admitting their child had an unhealthy weight.

Experts asked a mix of 500 men and women from various backgrounds, including UAE nationals, as well as Arab, Asian and western expatriates. All were married with children aged up to 10 years old.

Dr Gowri Ramanathan, acting chief medical officer at King’s College Hospital, said “BMI blindness” was a dangerous pre-cursor to rising childhood obesity in the UAE.

“We don’t know the full scale of the problem of BMI blindness globally or locally, but this study indicates that some parents struggle with the concept of unhealthy BMI or how to recognize the early signs that a child is overweight,”

“Often parents mistake the early signs that a child is overweight for so-called ‘puppy fat’, which is the fat children sometimes have. This fat is known to disappear as children grow, usually by the ages of 10 to 11. If not properly identified, what could appear as cute ‘puppy fat’ can constitute a high risk to the child and impair their health later in life,” Dr Ramanathan said.

Source:
Roberta Pennington – UAE parents’ view of obese children unrealistic, study shows
Nick Webster ‘BMI blindness’ means parents are failing to spot childhood obesity warning signs, study finds

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