Overweight boy

We've all heard it before: obesity is a problem worldwide, especially in the United States and especially among children. If an individual is already overweight as a child, they are at a much greater risk for premature mortality and diseases—like type 2 diabetes and heart disease—as adults.

When a child is struggling with their weight, parents can face the problem early and avoid greater problems in the future. But what if parents don't recognize the problem in the first place? New research suggests that many parents don't even realize when their child is overweight.

The research, published in the British Journal of General Practice, examined 2,976 families with children ages 4-5 and 10-11. The children were divided into three categories based on their Body Mass Index (BMI): normal, overweight (above the 85th percentile), and obese (above the 95th percentile). Parents were also asked which BMI category they believed their child fit into.

The findings were startling. "Of the 369 kids who were very overweight, only four parents thought they were," reports Forbes. "When the researchers analyzed the numbers further, they saw that for a given child with a BMI in the 98th percentile [obese], a whopping 80 percent of parents would say that the child was normal weight."

It's important to note that BMI is not a diagnostic tool for weight because it does not account for muscle mass; in order to come to a definitive conclusion for obesity, further tests should be performed by a doctor.

But if a parent is in denial about their child's weight, it's likely that their attitudes will be passed onto their children -- who will also have a skewed perception of their own weight, which may encourage unhealthy eating habits and necessary interventions.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Image: Overweight child via Shutterstock