FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Chelsea Sutherland has been studying the habits of mothers and their children.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Chelsea Sutherland has been studying the habits of mothers and their children. Warren Lynam

Education does a fat lot of good

KNOWING how to plan a healthy diet will not help to stop your child developing obesity, according to a University of the Sunshine Coast study.

A study of 162 mothers and 170 children found that women who knew what to eat were just as likely to see their children develop obesity as those who knew nothing about nutrition.

Honours student Chelsea Sutherland, who instigated the research, said the study highlighted a major problem in the fight against obesity.

"The messages are getting through about the recommended nutritional guidelines but they are not necessarily translating into healthy behaviour," Ms Sutherland said.

About 25% of children between the ages of seven and 15 were reported as either overweight or obese when the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted its health survey in 2011-12.

That percentage has not changed since 2004 and the rate of increase has dropped off significantly since doubling in the decade leading up to 1995.

But USC lecturer in psychology Rachael Sharman, who supervised Ms Sutherland, said childhood obesity was still a major concern and called for a greater emphasis on curbing habits.

"The research really just confirms our long-held suspicion, because I'd be surprised if people didn't know what they should be eating," she said.

With 63% of Australians now either overweight or obese, Dr Sharman believes policymakers need to realise that the healthy living message was not sinking in.

"I get a bit sick of the education thing," Dr Sharman said.

"We always hear about education, education, education. We're being educated the death.

"But obesity rates just keep going up and we have to better understand why the education is falling down."



Childhood overweight and obesity rates (ages 7-15):







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