Many overweight and obese teens don't believe they have a weight problem, a new study finds.
Overweight increases the risk of cancer
Researchers reviewed data on about 5,000 teens. They were between 13 and 15 years of age, and they all lived in the United Kingdom. The teens had been asked about their weight and if they thought they were too heavy, too light or about right.
Seventy-three percent of the teens had a weight within the normal range, 20 percent were overweight and 7 percent were obese. However, about 40 percent of those who were overweight or obese said they were about the right weight, and 0.4 percent even said they were too light, the findings showed.
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More than 80 percent of the normal-weight teens correctly identified themselves as being the right weight, the study found. But, 7 percent felt they were too heavy, and 10 percent believed they were too light. Girls were more likely than boys to think they were too heavy, the research revealed.
The Cancer Research UK study was published in the International Journal of Obesity.
Devastating eating disorders
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of 10 types of cancer, including those of breast and colon cancers, the researchers said in a Cancer Research UK news release.
"This study was a cause for celebration and concern. Young people who think they're overweight when they're not can sometimes develop devastating eating disorders, so we're delighted that most of the normal-weight teenagers had a realistic view of their body size," said Jane Wardle, a professor at Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Center at University College London.
Read: Teen eating disorders contagious
"But we need to find effective ways of helping too-heavy teenagers slim down and maintain a healthier weight, and it's vitally important that we find out whether it helps if they are more aware of their weight status. There are no easy answers," she added.
Julie Sharp is head of health information at Cancer Research UK. She explained that "overweight teenagers are more likely to become overweight adults at higher risk of cancer. So it's important that young people who are too heavy have support to be more active and make healthy changes to their diet – being aware that they are above a healthy weight could be a first step. Making these changes as teenagers could help protect them from cancer as adults."
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Image: Overweight teenager from Shutterstock