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More kids need to shed pounds, but fewer realize it, study says

A team of researchers at Georgia Southern University found an alarming rise in the lack of self-awareness among children and teenagers in the United States. Specifically, way more overweight adolescents are oblivious today to the fact that they ought to lose weight than were in decades past -- and it's a serious problem.

"The trend is very dangerous," said Jian Zhang, who describes the phenomenon as a vicious cycle.

The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. It tracked, among other things, the health of nearly 2,000 teenagers between the ages of 12 and 16 in the early 1990s and more than 2,500 teenagers in the same age range between 2007 and 2012.

As part of the study, participants' body mass index -- which is a fairly reliable measure of obesity among children, though less so among adults -- was collected, along with the response to this rather straightforward question: "Do you consider yourself to be overweight, underweight, or just about the right weight?"

When the two were juxtaposed -- what each adolescent said in response to the question, and what their corresponding BMI said about their weight -- Zhang's team noticed a pretty clear trend: Far fewer kids believe that they are overweight today, even though many more of them should.

"Within a short time scale, the likelihood that overweight or obese teens believe that they are overweight declined by almost 30 percent," Zhang said.

Nearly a third of children in the United States are considered overweight, according to the Food and Research Action Center. Roughly 35 percent of them become obese in adulthood.

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