Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
Body mass index (BMI) standards can be misleading for athletic students whose bodies are in excellent condition, but higher in muscle mass. One 11-year-old Naples, Florida girl learned this when her school sent home a letter warning her parents that she was in danger of becoming overweight; Lilly Grasso is a star volleyball player and has a healthy lifestyle. More on the letter, and her parents’ reaction, from Today.com:
The letter claimed that Lilly’s body mass index, or BMI, was 22 and she was at risk for being overweight. The 11-year-old star volleyball player carries 124 pounds on an athletic frame of 5’3” and eats healthy foods.
“It says that and tells you to go to their website and the at risk turns to Lilly is overweight,” Grasso said on TODAY.
She believes her daughter is a healthy weight and the Florida Department of Public Health in Collier County made a mistake by sending what’s known by some as a “fat letter” home with her daughter. She thinks that children might feel bad by being labeled as overweight or fat, even if they are healthy.
But, Deb Millsap, public information officer of the Collier County Health Department, and Joan Colfer, MD, MPH, director of the Florida Department of Public Health, Collier County told TODAY that while the letters are sent home with the students, they are in sealed envelopes addressed to the parents. Students can open the letters, but that means they are reading their parents mail.
The letter included BMI—which uses height and weight to determine if someone is within a healthy range—and information on how students’ vision and hearing are and if they are at risk for scoliosis. The data comes from a regular screening process that occurs when students in are kindergarten, first, third, and sixth grades. Florida is one of 21 states that have laws requiring BMI screenings. Millsap said the health department is currently in the middle of screenings for this school year, but last year the department tested 13,454 children. About 25 percent had possible vision issues, less than 1 percent had possible hearing problems, 2 percent had scoliosis, and 43 percent had BMI issues, either above or below normal numbers. Parents can opt out of the screening for their children, but Millsap and Colfer said not many parents do.
“We do not want kids to have self-esteem issues,” said Millsap. “Right on [the] letter it says sports may impact the results.”
Athletic children and adults might have a higher BMI because they have more muscle mass. BMI provides a rubric for doctors to work with, but does not provide an entire picture of a person’s health.
“Because of the obesity crisis, we have to have some tool. The CDC will say [BMI] is not perfect,” Colfer told TODAY. “These are simply screen tests, it is not a diagnosis.”
Image: Girls playing volleyball, via Shutterstock
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Friday, October 4th, 2013
Mothers who gain an excessive amount of weight during pregnancy raise the risk that their babies will develop into overweight children, according to a new study published in the journal PLoS Medicine. More from Today.com:
“With the progression of the obesity [epidemic] there has been attention that over-nutrition could also have negative consequences,” says Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“It is quite extraordinary when you think about it; the effects during pregnancy can potentially have a lifetime implication.”
Ludwig looked at the body mass index (BMI) of 42,133 mothers at the birth of their 91,045 children and BMI data of these children until age 12. The researchers only studied mothers who had more than one child to rule out other confounding factors, such as genetics and environment. Siblings share the same genetics and generally grow up eating the same food and exercising the same. If one sibling was overweight but the other normal, researchers could rule out environment and genetics, something that has been difficult to do in other studies.
Then Ludwig compared the BMIs of each mother between her pregnancies to see if the mother’s weight gain changed and if that influenced her child’s weight.
“Variations in pregnancy weight gain accounted for a half unit difference in child BMI at an average of 12 years,” Ludwig said. Since the 1970s when the obesity epidemic began, the change in BMI across the population increased by about two units. This effect remains small on an individual basis but could be one of the factors causing childhood obesity.
While researchers have long known that under-nutrition has a detrimental effect on children, this is the first study that shows that over-nutrition can also harm offspring.
“Excessive weight gain, above recommended levels, can also place that next generation at risk,” Ludwig says.
The study emphasized that the “right” amount of weight women should gain in pregnancy depends on a number of factors, including whether they were at a healthy weight, or over- or underweight before they became pregnant. Women should establish their target weight gain with their doctors.
Image: Pregnant belly, via Shutterstock
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Monday, July 22nd, 2013
Some 30,000 Boy Scouts and 7,000 leaders gathered July 15 in West Virginia for the annual National Scouts Jamboree, and for the second time in the event’s history, each of them was subject to a body mass index (BMI) cutoff that was designed to prohibit obese or unhealthily overweight people from participating in the event. The standard, organizers say, is in place to protect the health and safety of participants, as the Jamboree is packed with physical activities ranging from hiking to rock climbing.
“This policy is not meant to keep anyone out at all, and it’s just to make sure that they’re safe,” Boy Scouts of America’s public relations director Deron Smith told CNN. “We offer thousands of summer camp experiences (that) do not have this requirement.”
But Dr. Jennifer Shu, an Atlanta pediatrician, told CNN, “Any organization can make their own rules, but as a pediatrician I feel like we should be promoting physical activity for everybody, be as inclusive as possible, and only exclude from activity if there’s a physical threat to their health,” she said.
Boys whose BMI is slightly lower than 40, but who are still considered obese for their height can be admitted to the Jamboree, but they are subject to additional health scrutiny, including a personal health recommendation from a health care provider.
Image: Scout campsite, via Shutterstock
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