Childhood Overweight Often Goes Undiagnosed

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childhood overweight

Overweight children can easily progress from being a few pounds too heavy to obesity, which can progress into serious health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Proper diagnoses can alert parents to a developing medical issue that can have a lifelong impact.

Studies have indicated that one-third of American children are overweight, but a new study has shown that only one-third of the overweight children are diagnosed as overweight or obese by a pediatrician.

The study, led by researchers at The MetroHealth System and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, noted that failure to diagnose appears to mostly impact the children who could benefit the most from early intervention. The study is published in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Study Finds Overweight Children Undiagnosed

Researchers reviewed BMI measurements that were recorded for 60,711 children who were between 2-18 years old two had at least one well child visit between the years of 1999 and 2007 at MetroHealth.

According to the BMI Measurements:
  • 19% (11,277) of the children were overweight
  • 23% (14,105) were obese
  • 8% (4,670) severely obese
Researchers found that increasing their BMI percentiles increased the likelihood of diagnosis. Severely obese and obese children were more likely to be diagnosed than overweight children.
  • 76% of severely obese children were diagnosed
  • 54% of obese children were diagnosed
  • 10% of overweight patients received proper diagnosis.

Early Detection of Overweight Can Lead to Intervention

Lead author, David C. Kaelber, MD., PhD, M.P.H., said; "Despite having set pediatric BMI guidelines, this is a bit of a wake-up call to pediatricians that as many as 90% of overweight children are not being properly diagnosed.” Kaelber continued, “Better identification of this group of children who have just crossed into the 'unhealthy' weight category is essential for early intervention which will hopefully prevent not only a childhood of increased health problems, but also what now often becomes an ongoing battle through adulthood with life-long issues.”

The study indicates that children who have crossed into unhealthy weight may not be getting proper diagnoses in time to alert doctors and parents to intervene and improve the child’s health with weight control.

Without intervention, the children who are classed as overweight can cross over into obesity, which can have serious health consequences.

Causes of Childhood Overweight

According to the Mayo Clinic website, childhood overweight is usually caused by a combination of eating too many calories and too little activity. Children need extra nutrition during their important growing years. A nutritionist may recommend a diet that fulfills the need for a nutrition rich diet while reducing empty calories.

Lifestyle issues are usually the cause of weight problems in children, but there may also be genetic diseases and hormonal disorders that can predispose a child to obesity. A doctor can diagnose any medical problems that could cause overweight and make a recommendation to encourage children to reach a healthy weight.

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