By Emma Innes
Three quarters of parents with fat children are in denial about their children’s weight, new research suggests.
Some 77 per cent of parents with an overweight child refuse to admit their child is fat.
The findings suggest that obesity has been normalised among many parents.
Researchers at Imperial College London found 77 per cent of parents claimed their overweight child was ‘normal’.
Among those who did accept their child was too fat, many claimed it was just ‘puppy fat’ or their genes, The Times reports.
Others said their child was just ‘solid’ or that they had a ‘big build’.
And even among the parents who recognised that their children were carrying too much weight, only 41 per cent accepted their child’s health might be at risk in future.
As a result, doctors are warning that these parents could be creating a health ‘disaster’.
The Imperial College researchers interviewed 579 parents whose children had been declared to be overweight.
Dr Sonia Saxena told The Times: ‘There was disbelief that these measurements were accurate.’
She added: ‘They told us that they looked around and saw other children seemed to be very similar and so they didn’t understand why they were being singled out.’
This was not the first study to find that the parents of overweight children are often in denial.
Just last week research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in the U.S., released research which suggested half of parents with an overweight child are in denial about their child’s size.
The research showed these parents believed their child was slimmer than they actually were.
The parents tended to underestimate their child’s excess weight or to dismiss the problem as ‘puppy fat’, despite soaring rates of obesity.
Others with an obese child thought their son or daughter was normal or slightly heavy, while one in seven parents whose child was a healthy weight worried they were too skinny.
Alyssa Lundahl, who led the study, said parents who failed to recognise the problem were letting their children down.
‘We know that parents play a very crucial role in preventing childhood obesity,’ she said.
‘When parents’ perceptions are corrected, they do start to take action and encourage their children to become more active and maybe turn off the TV and go outside and play.’
Another study released this week has revealed that children who live near a lot of fast food outlets are more likely to be overweight or obese.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research looked at weight data from more than a million children and compared it with the availability of unhealthy food from outlets including fish and chip shops, burger bars, pizza places, and sweet shops.
They found that older children in particular are more likely to be overweight when living in close proximity to a high density of unhealthy eating outlets.
Professor Andy Jones, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, led the research. He said: ‘We found that the more unhealthy food outlets there are in a neighbourhood, the greater the number of overweight and obese children.
‘The results were more pronounced in secondary school children who have more spending power to choose their own food.
‘But the association was reversed in areas with more healthy food options available.
‘This is important because there is an epidemic of obesity among children in the UK and other industrialised countries.
‘It can lead to childhood diabetes, low self-esteem, and orthopaedic and cardiovascular problems. It is also a big problem because around 70 per cent of obese children and teenagers also go on to have weight problems in later life.’