University of California, San Diego School of Medicine scientists said that parents with obese children believe they are "very healthy." The team considers this as a concern because these parents do not understand that exercise, diet and a healthy weight are important.
Increasing evidence shows that parents have an important role in teaching healthy habits to children. The team said that parents could keep their children healthy and manage weight problems by accepting the importance of being physically active regularly and being aware of the effects of unhealthy patterns developed in childhood.
The researchers surveyed a little over 200 families in 2008 and 2009 and evaluated their eagerness to help their kids lose weight. They found that 28 percent of parents didn't see their child's weight as a concern while childhood obesity proves to have immediate and long-term effects on the health including type 2 diabetes and heart disease risks.
The average age of the children was 14 years old but ages were from 5 years old to 20. Over two thirds of the children were female and 94 percent of them could be clinically obese, having a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30. Nearly one third of the parents said they thought their child was in very good or excellent health.
The study also showed that nearly 62 percent of the parents said they were trying to improve the child's diet by avoiding sweets, snacking and sweet and increasing vegetables and fruits instead. However, only 41 percent of the parents reported that they were trying to help the child increase their physical activity levels such as dancing, playing sports or walking to the recommended 60 minutes a day.
"Parents have a hard time changing their child's dietary and physical activity behaviors," Department of Pediatrics assistant adjunct professor and lead researcher Kyung Rhee, MD said. "Our study tells us what factors may be associated with a parent's motivation to help their child become more healthy."
Previous research shows that parents have unrealistic perceptions of their child's weight often and an analysis of studies that involved over 15,000 children shows that 50 percent of parents with overweight or obese children thought their daughter or son was either underweight or at a healthy weight. Only around 14 percent of parents who have average-sized children underestimated their children's weight.