One out of three young people with normal weight wanted to be thinner, study finds

One out of three young people with normal weight wanted to be thinner, study finds

The data for the study was gathered from 564 Canadian children who were 8 or 10 years old when the survey began, were followed for two years and had at least one parent who suffered from obesity.

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One third of young people with normal weight want to be thinner, and within that group one third have tried, between the ages of 8 and 10, to lose weight, a study worked on by two Montreal researchers has concluded.

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And the study found that within two years, these same young people who tried to lose weight were three to four times more likely than others to have become overweight.

The data for the study was gathered from 564 Canadian children who were 8 or 10 years old when the survey began, were followed for two years and had at least one parent who suffered from obesity.

In total and regardless of their body weight, 48 per cent of the children in the study said they had already tried to lose weight and 20 per cent — a sampling composed of 21.6 per cent boys, 18.8 per cent girls — said their weight had been a source of personal stress over the previous three months.

Less surprisingly, 80 per cent of the children studied who were overweight or suffering from obesity said they had tried to lose weight and had felt stress because of their body size.

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“This finding is extremely alarming,” said study co-author Dr. Mélanie Henderson, a pediatric endocrinologist at Sainte-Justine Hospital. “What is even more alarming is that we see a lot of problems in terms of body image that have a lot of repercussions in terms of overall health.”

Of the 321 children with normal body weight at the start of the study, 5.6 per cent were overweight two years later, while 22 per cent of 110 children who were overweight at the start of the study were obese when the follow up was conducted. None of the children with normal weight were found to be obese after two years.

Another study presented last May during a meeting of the European Association for the study of Obesity, found that one quarter of teenagers living with obesity were unaware of their condition. That study was conducted in 10 countries and involved 5,275 obese teenagers, the 5,389 adults who care for them and 2,323 health care professionals.

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Two thirds of the teenagers in the study said they alone were responsible for their obesity and it was up to them to lose weight. More than 25 per cent of health professionals shared that opinion.

One third of the teens said they are unable to talk about their weight to their parents and 10 per cent said they were unable to talk about it to anyone at all.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all and I find it very sad, but it fits with our society’s stigma toward being overweight and obese and the lack of recognition that it is a chronic disease in people and multi-factorial,” said Henderson.

Obesity is not due uniquely to a person’s lifestyle, Henderson said. But unlike diabetes, which is treated by changing the patient’s lifestyle, even if that isn’t the source of the problem, “in the case of obesity it’s as if society is saying ‘oh no, it’s because they’re lazy or because they eat too much or because they don’t take care of themselves’.”

“These young people deserve everyone’s respect,” Henderson said. “It is not only on them that changes must be made, especially for those poor children who aren’t yet grown up. For them, in their heads, it’s all their fault, but that has nothing to do with it.”

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