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Measuring a kid's neck may predict obesity

Measuring the circumference of a kid's neck may help doctors and parents predict obesity before it happens.

July 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Pediatricians have several tools when it comes to measuring obesity in kids, but now researchers have given them another one -- measuring the circumference of a child's neck. It's simple, reliable and could help doctors predict obesity before it happens. Robin Pollster does just what her pediatrician tells her. She reads to her kids, stays on top of what they eat and gives them plenty of time to play. Pollster says obesity runs in her family, and that she tries to limit the sugar her children consume.

Even with more awareness and better choices, the obesity rate is skyrocketing. That's why the recent neck circumference test is exciting to doctors.

In a recent study, researchers looked at about 1,000 children and found a six-year-old boy with a neck circumference of 11.2 inches was almost four times more likely to be considered overweight.

Right now, doctors evaluate kids by using height-weight charts, body mass index and waist circumference.

Dr. Marsha Gerro from Providence St. Joseph Medical Center says she can see how measuring around the neck could have advantages over measuring a child's waist.

"After a large meal, waist size could change," Dr. Gerro explained. "And on the other hand, if you measure the neck, it would be very simple, and the child wouldn't have to undress, and you could obtain that information very easily in the doctor's office."

While there are a lot of factors that contribute to obesity in children, Dr. Gerro says parents have got to realize how much impact their behavior has on how their kids eat. Dr. Gerro says many parents will complain their kids are not eating vegetables, when they aren't leading by example.

Dr. Gerro says despite all the tools, one tried and true way pediatricians can use to evaluate kids is visually. For example, since muscles weigh more than fat, a child who is muscular might weigh more than another child who is the same height, but looking at them can tell a doctor more than just using a chart.


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