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Childhood obesity

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7324.1314a (Published 01 December 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1314
  1. Kamran Abbasi (kabbasi{at}bmj.com)
  1. BMJ

    One of the urban myths of parenting is that chubby children bloom into dumpy adults. There is evidence that childhood obesity is rising, perhaps dramatically. But Charlotte Wright and colleagues (pp 1280-4) infer from their cohort study that there is “no excess adult health risk [of disease] from childhood or teenage overweight.” Moreover, thin children are just as likely to be fat adults, with the thinnest having “the highest adult risk at every level of adult obesity.” This is welcome news for children fed up with hearing lectures about their eating habits and lack of exercise; less so for parents who like to set firm boundaries.

    There is also ongoing debate about web pages coming with a health warning, but as a first step they could come with a date warning. Even the most accomplished search engines throw up stagnant or outdated links at the top of the list. KidSource Online is a “group of parents who want to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of parents and children.” They warn that childhood obesity will persist throughout the life span (www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content2/obesity.html) and the best way to tackle it—and tackle it you must—is a programme of exercise, diet management, and behaviour modification. Shame that the page was last updated in April 2000 and the references date from the 1980s.

    The pendulum swings the other way with the “intuitive eating” approach prescribed by Jane Hirschmann and Lela Zaphiropoulos (www.overcomingovereating.com/childhood.html). “Children must be in the driver's seat when it comes to their bodies and to their eating,” they argue. This involves “reconnecting” with feelings of hunger and eating that dominated the first months of life.

    But don't despair, http://athealth.com/, which aims to provide information and services for mental health practitioners and those they serve, links you to evidence from leading US medical publications (www.athealth.com/Consumer/newsletter/FPN_4_16.html#2). The United States department of agriculture offers similar avenues for educators and researchers (www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/pubs/bibs/topics/weight/childhoodobesity.html). Even so, neither site appears to have been updated since June 2000. The web might be alive, but much of it is already dead.

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