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Conflicting research on fat kids and their health

I have three articles for y'all today, all of them about children's health, and all of them seem to be conflicting with each other (but then, what else is new with obesity research in general, right?).
The first article is Overweight Teens Typically Eat Less Than Normal-Weight Peers. This one seems like a no-brainer to me, since it's also true of "overweight/obese" adults and studies have proved that time and time again. The thing that's infuriating about the article is that it's blaming these teens for being fat in the first place because - wait for it - they overate as toddlers/young children. What it doesn't take into consideration is that maybe, just maybe, these teens are eating less than their peers because of the bullying they face for being fat, the blame and shame they face every day from every source there is because they don't fit society's "ideal" body shape, or the blame and shame they get from their doctors who ignore their metabolic health in favor of that dreaded number on the scale.
The second article is Taste Buds Less Sensitive In Obese Kids. This study has all kinds of problems with it, that I can see, anyway. First of all, 85% of the fat kids were from lower socioeconomic classes, they didn't control for gender differences, and the only thing they really did control for was whether the kids were fat or "normal-weight". The conclusion they reached was that fat kids have trouble identifying the intensity of sweet and salty until something is either very sweet or very salty (ergo, that's why fat kids eat too many sweets or too many salty snacks and are fat, I guess).
All of these kids were between the ages of 6 and 18, so I'm wondering how many of them had been on diets (and since they all came from the hospital's pediatric obesity center, you can almost guarantee that most of them have dieted at least once. So did the researchers take into consideration how that affects one's sense of taste? Did they take into consideration what the children normally ate on a daily basis? That can affect one's sense of taste. There are just too many variables to know if this study has any value.
The third article is More Exercise Cuts Kids' Diabetes Risk. The problem I have with this study is that they're saying that 28% of these kids were pre-diabetic and the aerobic exercise lowered their insulin AUC by "2.96 mU/mL relative to control in the low-dose exercise group and by 3.56 mU/mL versus control in the high-dose group". Without knowing what they considered pre-diabetic (the starting diagnostic for insulin AUC), I'm not sure I'd consider that a significant drop (going from 100 to 97 isn't a big deal with a fasting blood sugar, and if 95 is the number at which they say you're not pre-diabetic, is this really a big deal after all?). And one semester of activity, with no follow-up? WTF? Are they really aiming to improve these kids' health, or are they just using them as guinea pigs to prove a point? Because if the activity isn't continued, the improvements aren't going to be maintained, and where does that leave these kids, health-wise? Sure, their insulin AUC improved for a while, and they lost some visceral fat, and improved their aerobic fitness, but if they don't continue the activity sponsored by the research, all of those improvements could be lost. I really don't see a school continuing a sports program where movement for movement's sake is the goal, rather than winning at any cost, do you? And that was the carrot to get these kids moving - participate in the sport whether they were good at it or not, have fun with it, and who cared about winning or losing as long as they played. That's not the way schools do sports.

Man fired because of his size wins lawsuit | NWSA 2013 Fat Studies Interest Group Call for Papers

richie79's picture
September 26th, 2012 | Link | The Beeb are carping on

The Beeb are carping on about fat kids again, offering Paul Gately and David Haslam a platform to blame and shame parents for 'letting' their children become obese. Clearly they've conveniently forgotten (or more likely deliberately ignored) this study which emphasised genetic factors to the point that a number of participant parents who'd had their kids placed on 'at-risk' registers and been threatened with removal into State care were subsequently exonerated on the strength of the study's findings. My experience of becoming a parent has thus far confirmed what I had suspected all along; that a child will eat at its own pace and that attempts to feed it more than it requires / desires are doomed to failure. My response to the piece is copied below, as the chances of the Beeb publishing it are even slimmer than the desired 'ideal' body type of Gately et al:

"The very title of this article betrays the specific standpoint of its author. However whilst this assertion (that overfeeding by parents is invariably 'to blame' for the alleged 'tragedy' of plump children) has gained mainstream acceptance, it is but one perspective on a complex topic.

The role of genetic predisposition is well known but has been deliberately downplayed; indeed a study in 2009 exonerated the parents of a number of children who had been removed by Social Services on account of their weight. If a child lacks this propensity, it is almost impossible to feed them to 'obesity'.

What's more and as the article implies, the definitions of 'obesity have been repeatedly narrowed over the years to include many who aren't even noticeably fat, skewing the statistics and fuelling a moral panic which has in turn shifted the policy focus onto the weight of children who a decade ago would have been left alone to grow into their own bodies.

The risks too have been hugely overstated; studies which demonstrate that those in the BMI 25-35 categories live longest and have greater resilience to disease are routinely ignored by mainstream sources. Claims of an 'epidemic' of childhood diabetes fall down in the face of statistical evidence of its continued rarity (around 1 in 1500 children are Type II)

Of course the biggest risk to the wellbeing and health of those labelled 'obese' is the pervasive climate of socially-sanctioned hostility and bullying generated by hand-wringing, simplistic media articles such as this, and the associated, documented role of stress and stigma on many health conditions including those classed as 'obesity-related'.

Many experts insist that the cure for this stigma is to lose weight, which of course for most is much more difficult than they will admit. As a society do we demand any other bullied group change to meet their abusers' demands, even whilst couching it in the problematic language of health?"

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein

DeeLeigh's picture
September 27th, 2012 | Link | Brilliant response.

Brilliant response.

Alyssa October 26th, 2012 | Link | Fat teens eat less

Each of these studies deserves its own response. Let me start with the first, "Overweight Teens Typically Eat Less..." Self-reported data are highly unreliable. That does not mean that I think the fat teens under-reported their consumption. Rather, the reports of all participants are unreliable. This study is simply representative of "cheap and dirty" research methods, i.e., surveys on topics like weight (and related topics like how much do your eat) or income where it is well established that self-reported data are unreliable. This would also apply to the portion of the study that looked at parent-reported data on how much their toddlers were eating. Here parents reported their fat toddlers consumed more calories than not-fat toddlers. Perhaps the parents of fat toddlers had bought the obesity panic myth that if their child is fat, they must be overeating.

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