A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that those who under-perceive their weight during adolescence may go on to have lower blood pressure than those who perceived themselves to be overweight or obese.
Given the extensive list of long-term adverse health outcomes linked to overweight and obesity, it is common belief that accurate awareness of one’s own weight is crucial for health maintenance. Various public health efforts and interventions are currently in place, such as body mass index (BMI) report cards, to reduce weight misconceptions. The idea being that accurate self-perception as overweight or obese plays a key part in taking responsibility for your health and attempting to lose weight. Interestingly, however, two recent studies found quite the opposite.
Results showed that those who underestimate their weight are less likely to put on as much weight as those who actively acknowledge that they are overweight or obese. There is a range is psychosocial factors that must be taken into consideration in this scenario. Children and adolescents that are overweight or obese are more likely to be targeted socially, and this acknowledgment or sometimes over-perception of their weight can lead to depression, confidence issues and consequent unhealthy eating habits such as binge eating or the development of eating disorders. Whilst this group may be more eager to lose or maintain their weight, these factors can ultimately lead to more weight gain than those who under-perceive their weight during adolescence. Leading on from these findings, it is important to then assess the cardiovascular impact of weight-perception.
A new study published by The Journal of Adolescent Health looked into the link between weight self-perception in adolescents who are overweight or obese and future blood pressure. Data was obtained for 2,463 adolescents in 1996 and follow-up was completed in 2008. Various factors that may affect weight and/or blood pressure were taken into consideration, such as; age, gender, ethnicity, smoking status, alcohol consumption, household income and education.
Results show there was an average reduction in systolic blood pressure of 4.3mm Hg for women that under-perceived their weight during adolescence. This reduction is classified as being clinically significant, as it can be likened to reductions seen with the use of medication prescribed for high blood pressure. Interestingly, these results were not found in men. This could be due to a number of reasons, one of which could be differences in body image between men and women. To conclude, based on these results it may, in fact, be counterproductive to correct weight under-perception and interventions currently in place should be re-evaluated.
Written By: Saran Amin, MPharm