(NaturalNews) Large numbers of parents in the United States are unable to recognize their children's obesity, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan.
Researchers used the Internet to collect information from parents on their children's height and weight, and then asked those parents to rank their children's weight from one of several provided answers.
According to the researchers' calculations, 15 percent of the young children in the study and 10 percent of the older children were obese. This alone suggests that parents are underestimating their children's weight, the researchers said, because national surveys consistently indicate the rate of childhood obesity to be 17 percent.
Even using the numbers provided by the parents, researchers found that many parents could not recognize their children's obesity. For obese children between the ages of six and 11, 43 percent of parents said their child was "about the right weight," 37 percent said "slightly overweight," 13 percent said "very overweight," and about 7 percent said "slightly underweight."
Under the definition of obesity used by researchers, the correct answer would be "very overweight."
Parents of children aged 12 to 17 answered more accurately but were still widely off the mark. While only 11 percent said their children were "about the right weight," 56 percent said they were only "slightly overweight" and about 2 percent said "slightly underweight." Thirty-one percent said their child was "very overweight."
Lead researcher Matthew M. Davis said the parents often believe their children will grow out of their heaviness, rather than taking it as a warning sign. Other childhood health advocates noted that it can be hard to identify obesity in children. In addition, social stigma may make parents reluctant to admit that their child is overweight. Half of all obese children have at least one overweight parent.
Davis said that parents need to realize what a serious threat childhood obesity is.
"Obesity isn't just something that affects the clothes that you buy or how you are perceived," he said. "It is something that can have health effects, not only in adulthood but in childhood."