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Obesity obsession

British researchers believe our society’s growing obsession with obesity is causing many underweight children to go unnoticed.

Obesity obsession

It seems no matter which way we look these days, we are being bombarded with health campaigns aimed at tackling rising obesity.

While this battle against the bulge is fought everywhere on a daily basis, the war on obesity is no more obvious than in the playground.

From healthier lunches, snacks and increased physical activity campaigns aimed at kids, as a society, we are becoming obsessed with being (or fighting not to be) overweight.

But this ‘obsession’ is proving detrimental to the health of a large number of children who may be tackling other weight issues. That’s the latest finding by researchers at a university in the UK.

The research team, lead by scientists from Essex University, surveyed almost 10,000 children from the east of England, aged from nine to 16. They found that one in 17 children were too thin, with the trend more common in girls than boys.

Interestingly, there were also great differences in children from different ethnic groups, with those from Asian backgrounds more likely to be underweight.

Weighing too little is more damaging to a child’s health than weighing too much, according to the study’s lead researcher Dr. Gavin Sandercock. Symptoms can include a lack of energy, delayed periods for girls, and weakened immune systems.

Researchers believe there are many factors contributing to this trend, including rising food prices, poor diets and poor muscle development from low levels of exercise. But they are also concerned that a fear of becoming obese may be the biggest culprit.

“The fact is the UK is obsessed with overweight and obesity – yet it is now accepted that underweight may pose a much greater risk to health,” Dr. Sandercock said adding that attention was ‘absolutely’ too focused on obesity, causing underweight children to be ‘missed’.

A similar study published earlier this year by University College London academics found that even medical practitioners might be missing the problem of underweight children, many lacking the knowledge to properly identify the warning signs.

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