The Simplest Way to Monitor Children's Weight... Ever!
By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD
As childhood obesity continues to grow in the UK, health experts have increasingly recommended monitoring children’s weight, particularly throughout the school years. However, some experts believe focusing on weight may encourage eating problems and disorders in susceptible children.
Now, results from a new study confirm that it’s easy to monitor a child’s size as he or she grows, without them having to stand on the bathroom scales. The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, reveals that measuring a child’s waist to height ratio is a good indication of whether or not he or she is overweight – and is, in fact, more closely linked to illness in childhood than Body Mass Index (BMI). As a result, the researchers recommend that the waist to height ratio is used as an additional or alternative measurement to BMI in children.
Some health experts have recommended using the waist to height ratio to identify weight problems in adults for years. Now this research indicates it may also be an appropriate measurement to use for children.
It couldn’t be easier to calculate either. Simply measure your child’s height and waist circumference, then divide the waist measurement by the height measurement. For example, for a child who has a waist circumference of 55cm and is 122cm tall, the calculation is 55 ÷ 122 = 0.45.
The researchers suggest using a cut off point of 0.5 to indicate potential weight problems – in other words, where the waist measurement is half the height measurement. Children who have a waist to height ratio of more than 0.5 are likely to be overweight – and the larger the number, the greater the potential weight problem.
The good thing about this measurement is that it can be done without making a fuss about weight. Younger children, in particular, love recording their height as they grow, and it’s easy to measure waist circumferences to check sizes for buying new clothes. It’s also worth remembering that standard BMI charts are designed for adults and aren’t suitable for children, so even if you do monitor your child’s weight, it’s often hard to tell whether this is appropriate for their age and height.
In the meantime, if you do measure your child’s waist and height and think he or she may have a weight problem, always see your GP for advice. And don’t forget that the same measurement applies to adults to – as a guideline, keep your waist measurement to less than half your height!
Parents can use the diaries, databases and weight loss tools in WLR to check calorie intake and see how balanced their diet is, try it free for 24 hours.
For more information about the waist to height ratio, visit the Food Standards Agency web page at www.eatwell.gov.uk