Last week, a North East mum was furious after her five-year-old was labelled “overweight” by an NHS measurement programme based on BMI results.My mind conjured up (given that the 'top one per cent' sounds like the very worst example) a mini landwhale, eyes like two raisins in dough, wearing grown man t-shirts and struggling to breathe and walk unaided.
Beth Coates, of Dudley, near Cramlington, claimed BMI was inaccurate for the changing bodies of under-12s, and rubbished figures that placed her son Antonio in the top one per cent of obese children.
Well, there’s a picture of the lad in the newspaper, and if he’s obese, I’m a banana.
Never mind being in the top one per cent of the obese range, he’s pretty normal for a young boy.
His mother said she feared it could prompt worried parents into starting children on unhealthy and draconian diets.Good for you! To hell with the scientists - only someone with an eating disorder themselves could look at this chap and proclaim him even 'chubby'.
Ms Coates said: “If wasn’t strong in myself I might start to think I was doing something wrong and start to deny Antonio food. It could give children serious eating disorders. I don’t want Antonio growing up thinking he is obese when he is not.”
Of course, no-one had actually observed the child. This was yet another 'diagnosis by tickbox'.
And when the child's mother had the temerity to question the wisdom of this, she was basically told she didn't know what she was talking about:
But Dr Ashley Adamson, a senior lecturer at the Human Nutrition Research Centre at Newcastle University, warned that our perceptions of what “overweight” means has changed. And while athletes were an extreme case, she said that BMI was still an accurate and reliable measure for the majority of people.Put down your charts and graphs and figures and take a look at this boy, genius. If he's classed as in the top one per cent of obese children, something's very wrong.
“We did a study of 500 children in the North East, using four of the most sophisticated measures of body fat, and we found that it tallied very well with the simple BMI scores,” Dr Adamson said.
“Parents read the statistics about childhood obesity and say they don’t see that in the playground.Oh, please!
“But scientists have measured them, and 69% of children are overweight or obese. Our perceptions of what ‘fat’ looks like have shifted.”
Take a look at the photo of the lad. If you maintain that your figures prove him ‘obese’, then you need to relook at your figures.
Any fat on that child is designed to be there. It’s called ‘puppy fat’ and you cannot measure a growing child on the same scale as an adult. One size does NOT fit all.
She added: “What we need is more support for parents. Many don’t have an accurate image of what weight children should be.”They know if the child can’t run, jump, play or see their toes they are overweight, dangerously so. Everything else will be cured by that most egalitarian of cures – growing up…