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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Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Children as young as five are at a heightened risk of being obese if they regularly drink sugary beverages such as sodas, juices, and sports drinks, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Children who drink sweet drinks less often are less likely to be obese, according to the study. More from Reuters:
Although the link between sugary drinks and extra weight has been well documented among teens and adults, researchers said that up until now, the evidence was less clear for young children.
“Even though sugar-sweetened beverages are relatively a small percentage of the calories that children take in, that additional amount of calories did contribute to more weight gain over time,” said Dr. Mark DeBoer, who led the study at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
He and his colleagues surveyed the parents of a nationally-representative group of 9,600 children when the kids were two, four and five years old. The children were all born in 2001. Parents reported on their income and education, as well as how often children drank sugary beverages and watched TV.
The children and their mothers were weighed at each survey visit.
The proportion of kids who had at least one soda, sports drink or sugar-sweetened juice drink each day ranged from 9 to 13 percent, depending on their age.
Those children were more likely to have an overweight mother and to watch at least two hours of TV each day at age four and five.
After accounting for those influences as well as families’ socioeconomic status, the researchers found five-year-olds who had at least one sugary drink each day were 43 percent more likely to be obese than those who drank the beverages less frequently or not at all.
Kids were considered obese if they had a body mass index – a measure of weight in relation to height – above the 95th percentile for their age and gender, as calculated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Image: Child drinking sweet beverage, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
A new study raises interesting questions about how parents introduce babies to solid food.
It suggests babies might get health benefits from skipping spoon-fed purées, and going straight to feeding themselves with finger foods.
Published by the British Medical Journal, this small study looked at the eating habits of 155 British children as they moved away from breast milk or formula to solid food. Parents were asked if the children fed themselves, if they were picky eaters, and about their height and weight. The spoon-fed and self-fed babies were equally likely to be picky, researchers said. But they found that the two groups preferred different types of food.
The Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail reports that self-fed babies showed a preference for carbohydrates such as pasta, breads and rice, while spoon-fed babies preferred sweets such as cookies. From the Globe and Mail:
Ellen Townsend, associate professor of psychology and one of the authors of the study, said carbohydrates may be more attractive to children who fed themselves because such foods tend to be easy to hold and to chew. Furthermore, they may be more accustomed to a range of healthy, nutritious foods that are intact, instead of masked as purées, which could influence their preferences.
Although the researchers found the majority of children in both groups had a healthy, normal body mass index, a small number of children in the baby-led group were underweight. By contrast, however, Dr. Townsend said a greater number of children in the spoon-fed group were overweight, which could be linked to parents overestimating how much to feed their infants.
“In baby-led weaning, you’re essentially handing over control of the feeding process to your child. You’re letting them decide when they’re full,” she says, whereas with spoon-feeding, “perhaps there’s a temptation to give the child one or two more spoons more than they actually want.”
What about the risk of choking for babies who feed themselves? The researchers found that among the “finger-food” babies, 93.5 percent never had a choking episode.
Image: Baby girl eating via Shutterstock.
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