Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Headless fat people, lazy journalists

So, I saw this article, and was struck by this photo:

Do the people in the photo look like preschoolers to you? Of course not! So what I glean from this is, if they were to show photos of "fat" preschoolers, we would probably see them as normal children, because little kids like that are supposed to have some baby fat on them. That's their reserve for the growing they are about to do.

There's a quote: “With 25 per cent of pre-school children now overweight, we’ve got to act to help parents get children to the correct weight for their age and height.”

I'd like an answer to the following questions:
1. Have kids gotten heavier, or have they become "overweight" by a change in definition?

2. So they're heavier--are they also taller? I think they probably are, which is typical for children that get adequate nutrition.

I'm also bothered that they're talking about BMI instead of discussing statistics that make more sense. I don't know what a four year old with a BMI of 15 or 18 or 34 looks like. How do we know that they're not higher because the kids are taller? Maybe that IS the case, and these people don't want us to know that part of the equation. And, how much difference in weight are we talking about anyway? Preschoolers are small--could one pound make the difference between "normal" and "overweight" for them?

Instead, we get a snow job article with a bunch of guys making statements that are NOT being backed up by anything. Shoddy reporting, with absolutely NO balance to the article. The claims aren't being questioned at ALL. Bullshit.


Vive42 said...

actually, i'm pretty sure bmi isn't used for children. not sure when the cutoff is, but definitely under 10 will go by percentile charts. so, for instance, when i was a child and i refused to eat and my doctor was worried, i was at the 50th percentile height (average height for my age) and the 10th percentile weight (weighed less than 90% of children my age). i think a doctor would also be legitimately concerned about a child who had a similar imbalance between height and weight in the other direction, but no idea what might be considered overweight in between those types of extremes.

one thing is sure- if you go by bmi you will definitely get it wrong by any standard.

JeanC said...

As far as I know, BMI is not valid for children since they are constantly growing. That's why they measure children on the percentile range.

BMI is such a joke and since it doesn't actually measure anything other then height and weight, not body composition, isn't valid for anything. Remember, athletes like Shaq and actors like Tom Cruise are considered obese and overweight according to the BMI, yet no one is trying to shame them into becoming thinner.

RioIriri said...

Are you serious? So it isn't just the journalist's fault, it's the researchers for using BMI for small children! Thank you for pointing this out.

It's also really tough to judge what's "overweight" for children, because their bodies go through cycles of weight gain and growth spurts--they build up a fat reserve to help with that growth.

That fat reserve requires that they go through a short period of high blood sugar to build it up--which leads to a misdiagnosis of Type II diabetes by overzealous and undereducated doctors. The "omg we're seeing type II diabetes in CHILDREN" is because they're testing kids for it (due to the OMGOBESITYEPIDEMIC), when they didn't test for it in the past. So now we're seeing kids being treated for diabetes when they don't actually have it, and are being inappropriately medicated. I wonder what this is going to do to their bodies in the long term?

violet_yoshi said...

I'm tired of the whole, anonymous fat people shown only from the head down thing.

It makes me think if someone tried doing that to me, I might try flipping the bird in the shot.

Time-Machine said...

It is incredibly difficult to determine "healthy" weights for children, especially really young children who are still growing at tremendous rates. Part of this is that it's hard to get a good measure of the average height/weight of kids of a certain age when a month or two difference can change it so dramatically. The other part is that kids grow differently. Some (like my brother always did) get tall and thin and gangly and then widen out, and some get a little chubby and then stretch. So, basically, trying to call anyone who hasn't finished puberty an unhealthy weight is always going to be a pretty unfounded - and dangerous - claim.

Of course, there are issues with malnourished children being underweight, but that's completely different. If you're kid is getting the right amount of moderately nutritious food, then consider them good.

Trying to call four-year-olds fat is just sick, and is going to give those kids all sorts of complexes and completely screw up their relationship with food.