Ky. parents in denial; Poll shows they don't see their child's obesity

Poll: They don't see their child's obesity

January 17, 2013 

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300 dpi Paul Schmid color illustration of stick man with a doughnut body, potato-chip face and M&M eyes. For stories about kids and junk food. The Seattle Times 2007

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PAUL SCHMID — MCT

If 37 percent of Kentucky children are obese or overweight, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control report, why is it that only 14 percent of Kentucky parents think their child weighs too much?

As much as we might wish to write off this finding from the Kentucky Parent Survey as a statistical aberration, the truth probably is that a lot of parents are in denial about their child's weight and their own weight.

Consider: Parents report that almost two out of three school-age Kentuckians (59 percent) drink a soft drink or other sugary beverages every day, according to the random survey of more than 1,000 parents or guardians of children younger than 18.

The poll was commissioned by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and conducted last summer by the University of Virginia's Center for Survey Research. It has a margin of error of 3 percent.

If that many parents 'fess up to giving their kids daily doses of calorie-laden, teeth-rotting, diabetes-promoting drinks, just think how many more might be too embarrassed to admit it.

A growing body of research suggests that the concentrated fructose from corn that's found in most soft drinks contributes more and in different ways to obesity than the sucrose from table sugar that Eisenhower era kids dumped in their Kool-Aid.

Being overweight or obese sets a child up for lifelong weight problems and health complications.

While two-thirds of Kentucky parents reported their child got enough physical activity every day during the previous week, 56 percent of parents said their children are spending more than two hours a day in front of a screen, watching television, playing games or surfing the Internet.

Experts say one way to protect children from obesity is to cut off "screen time" at two hours a day.

The two-hour limit on sedentary recreation is part of what's called the 5-2-1-0 daily plan for healthy kids: Five servings of fruits and vegetables, no more than two hours of screen time, at least an hour of exercise and zero high-calorie drinks, a category that can include fruit-based juices.

Obviously parents are the first and most important line of defense against childhood obesity.

But families need help from schools and communities to ensure kids, including adolescents, have safe, convenient places to run, walk, bike and play; constructive, supervised after-school activities, and healthful food to eat.

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