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Father's fury as slim five-year-old son was sent home with an NHS letter branding him overweight

A nutritionist has criticized the NHS for finding his slender five-year-old son overweight due to an ‘idiotic’ BMI check.

Aaron Nee, from East Sussex, said his son Jacob came home in April with an NHS letter warning his parents to ‘make healthy changes’.

The boy, who ‘barely carries an ounce of fat’, was weighed at school in March when he was four years old and was deemed to be 26.2kg (4th 1lb) overweight for his 3ft 11 frame.

Mr Nee, 37, was furious when he realized that the BMI measurement system, which does not take into account muscle mass and bone density, was being used to assess children’s weight nationally.

He said this health classification is “dangerous” because it means children are mistakenly labeled as overweight or obese, as he thinks his son was.

The father fears that this could lead to widespread eating disorders by encouraging parents to put their children on a diet at an early age.

The Department of Health and Social Care, which oversees the National Child Measurement Program (NCMP), said it helps to “inform action” to improve the health of all children and promote a healthier weight.

It comes amid a growing childhood obesity epidemic, meaning one in five young people in England is overweight by the time they start primary school.

Childhood obesity reached ‘unprecedented levels’ during the Covid pandemic, with children sitting at home and unable to run around playgrounds.

Aaron Nee, from East Sussex, said his son Jacob (pictured) came home in April with an NHS letter warning his parents to 'make healthy changes'

Aaron Nee, from East Sussex, said his son Jacob (pictured) came home in April with an NHS letter warning his parents to ‘make healthy changes’

Mr Nee, 37, a nutritionist, was furious when he realized that the BMI measurement system, which does not take into account muscle mass and bone density, was being used to assess children's weight nationally

Mr Nee, 37, a nutritionist, was furious when he realized that the BMI measurement system, which does not take into account muscle mass and bone density, was being used to assess children's weight nationally

1662637410 133 Father039s fury as slim five year old son was sent home with

1662637410 133 Father039s fury as slim five year old son was sent home with

Mr Nee, 37, a nutritionist, was furious when he realized that the BMI measurement system, which does not take into account muscle mass and bone density, was being used to assess children’s weight nationally

HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR BODY MASS INDEX – AND WHAT IT MEANS?

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height.

Standard formula:

  • BMI = (weight in pounds / (height in inches x height in inches)) x 703

Metric formula:

  • BMI = (weight in kilograms / (height in meters x height in meters))

Dimensions:

  • Under 18.5: underweight
  • 18.5 – 24.9: Healthy
  • 25 – 29.9: overweight
  • 30 – 39.9: obese
  • 40+: Morbid obesity

Nee said, “He came home one day with it in an envelope addressed to us and it just said, ‘We weighed your kid at school and we see he’s overweight.’

‘I was very angry when I read that because as you can see my son has barely an ounce of fat on him – he is certainly not overweight and he is certainly not unhealthy.

“Fortunately for my son, I am very knowledgeable about the matter, but the majority of parents are not. The letter just went in the trash.

“Jacob is completely oblivious to what has happened because I wouldn’t say anything to him and of course I wouldn’t put him on a diet or anything like that.”

The National Child Measurement Program is an NHS scheme that measures the height and weight of children aged four to 11 to assess levels of overweight and obesity in primary schools.

These two measurements are used to generate a Body Mass Index, which is then compared to a national scale to determine whether that person is underweight, normal, overweight or obese.

Children are classified in centiles, which show how they relate in percentage to the rest of the country.

For example, a girl in the 75th century is heavier than 75 out of 100 other girls her age.

Children between the second and 91st centuries are considered a healthy weight, while below that is an underweight.

Being between the 91st and 98th centuries is classified as overweight, while 98 or above is ‘very overweight’ according to the NHS’s.

Mr Nee said: ‘I felt even more angry because other children got this letter and parents who read it and told their child that they were overweight or put them on a diet that is clearly not necessary for a five-year-old.

Or even make little comments to their kids, like if they want chocolate and the parent says, ‘We can’t because we got that letter from school and you’re going to be overweight.’

“There is no real advice on what parents should or should not say to their child. That only leads to an eating disorder at a very young age, it is very dangerous.

“The number of clients I speak to who can trace their eating disorder back to what a doctor or someone at school has told them about their weight is incredibly high.”

The boy, who 'barely carries an ounce of fat', was weighed in school in March when he was four years old and was estimated to be 26.2kg (4st 1lb) for his 3ft 11 frame

The boy, who 'barely carries an ounce of fat', was weighed in school in March when he was four years old and was estimated to be 26.2kg (4st 1lb) for his 3ft 11 frame

The boy, who ‘barely carries an ounce of fat’, was weighed in school in March when he was four years old and was estimated to be 26.2kg (4st 1lb) for his 3ft 11 frame

The father now plans to forego Jacob's future weigh-ins at school and urges other parents to be wary of BMI measurements

The father now plans to forego Jacob's future weigh-ins at school and urges other parents to be wary of BMI measurements

The father now plans to forego Jacob’s future weigh-ins at school and urges other parents to be wary of BMI measurements

How is a child’s BMI calculated?

For children and young people aged 2 to 18, the BMI calculator takes into account age and gender, as well as height and weight.

Overweight children are believed to be at increased risk for several health problems, and they are also more likely to be overweight as adults.

The BMI calculator calculates whether a child or young person:

A child’s BMI is expressed as a “centile” to show how their BMI compares to children who participated in national surveys.

For example, a girl in the 75th century is heavier than 75 out of 100 other girls her age.

Waist measurement is not routinely recommended for children because their height is not taken into account.

Consult a doctor if you are concerned about your child’s weight. They may be able to refer you to your local healthy lifestyle program for children, youth and families.

Source: NHS

He argued that while the measurement system is being used on a massive scale to determine the nation’s overall health, it is “meaningless” on an individual level because it does not take other factors into account.

He said: ‘I was just really shocked that they are using this really old technique that no nutritionist would use to determine one’s health on their own.

“I understand why they do it because you can use it widely and say 60 per cent of the entire UK is overweight or something like that and it will probably give you accurate numbers.

‘But on an individual basis it just literally means nothing’ [because] BMI does not take into account bone density or muscle mass.

‘It’s idiotic to use it on an individual basis’ [but] unfortunately for us there are many idiots in powerful places when it comes to nutrition and health.’

The father now plans to forgo Jacob’s future weigh-ins at school and urges other parents to be wary of BMI measurements.

He hopes to encourage those responsible to rethink the system for categorizing the weight of individual children.

Mr Nee said: ‘It’s really not the school’s fault as they clearly follow the guidelines and that happens in every school.

‘It’s higher than the schools, it’s the NHS and whoever allows it.

“It’s terrible that this is happening. What is even more despicable is that the doctors and dietitians in these circles are not holding back.

“Be careful who you take nutritional advice with, especially when it comes to your kids — just because someone is a doctor or a dietitian doesn’t always mean they know what they’re talking about.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Social Care said: ‘The National Childhood Measurement Program (NCMP) helps inform measures being taken at both the local and national levels to improve the health of all children and promote a healthier weight. .

“Our approach to the program is reviewed every year, in consultation with a wide range of experts, as well as children and families, school nurses and head teachers.

“Providing their child’s results to parents is not mandatory and local authorities can choose whether and how to inform parents.”

Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust said they had nothing more to add beyond what the Department of Health and Social Care had already said.

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