[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 23-Mar-2011
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Contact: Darcy Spitz
American Heart Association

Obese and overweight women, children underestimate true weight

Overweight and obese mothers and their children think they weigh less than their actual weight, according to research reported at the American Heart Association's Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism/Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention 2011 Scientific Sessions.

In the study of women and children in an urban, predominantly Hispanic population, most normal weight women and children in the study correctly estimated their body weight, but most obese women and children underestimated theirs.

"Obesity is a well-known risk factor for the development of many diseases, including heart disease and diabetes," said Nicole E Dumas, M.D., lead author and an internal medicine resident at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. Dumas and colleagues surveyed women and their pre-adolescent children attending an urban, primary care center in New York City. They asked the subjects about their age, income, heart disease risk factors, and perceptions of their body size using silhouette images that corresponded to specific body mass index (BMI) types for example, underweight, normal and overweight.

The researchers also recorded participants' height, weight and BMI, which is a measurement of body weight based on height. A BMI of 25-29 is overweight, and a BMI over 30 is obese.

The researchers found:

"These findings imply that not only is obesity prevalent in urban America, but that those most affected by it are either unaware or underestimate their true weight," she said. "In addition, obesity has become an acceptable norm in some families. Strategies to overcome the obesity epidemic will need to address this barrier to weight loss."

Future research should include interventions that study the effect of increased accuracy of body image perception on weight loss among families.


Co-authors are Robert R Sciacca, Eng.Sc.D.; Jennifer Decolongon, M.D.; Juviza K. Rodriguez, B.A.; and Elsa-Grace V Giardina, M.D.

Author disclosures are on the manuscript. The study was funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Arlene and Joseph Taub Foundation.

Note: Actual presentation time is 5 p.m. ET, Wednesday, March 23, 2011.

Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect association policy or position. The association makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at www.americanheart.org/corporatefunding.

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