THURSDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- Overweight and obese women and children tend to underestimate their true body weight, and mothers with overweight children believe their children's weight to be normal, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association's Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism/Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention 2011 Scientific Sessions, held from March 22 to 25 in Atlanta.
Nicole E. Dumas, M.D., of the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues investigated perception of body size among 222 women and pre-adolescent children at an urban clinic servicing a predominantly minority population. Participants completed a survey about cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, socio-demographics, and their perceived body size using silhouette images corresponding to a specific body mass index (BMI). Their weight, height, and BMI were measured.
The researchers found that overweight and obese women and children commonly underestimated their body weight, with 81.8 percent of obese women underestimating their true weight compared to 42.5 percent of overweight and 13.2 percent of normal weight women. Like their mothers, 85.7 percent of overweight or obese children underestimated their own weight. Of mothers with overweight or obese children, 47.5 percent thought their child's weight was normal. Children tended to choose larger images than their mothers did to describe an "ideal" or "healthiest" woman. Overall, 41.4 percent of children thought their mothers needed to lose weight.
"These troubling findings indicate obese images are acceptable norms in families, thereby increasing risk for CVD. Strategies to overcome the obesity epidemic will need to address weight misperception among families," the authors write.