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Obesity obsession means 'other weight problems missed', breath tests for pregnant women backed by midwives and one reason to ditch the factor 50 sunscreen

A round-up of the health news headlines on Monday 13 May

The obsession with obesity means ‘other weight problems are being missed’, a group of researchers has claimed.

A study presented at the European Congress on Obesity which looked at 10,000 children aged nine to 16 found that one in 17 was too thin.

The study showed 6% of all children were underweight, but it was more common in girls (6.4%) than boys (5.5%).

Researcher Dr Gavin Sandercock said society was too focused on obesity, when weighing too little was more damaging to health than weighing too much.

He also called for better training for GPs to spot underweight children.

The Guardian brings us the news that NICE guidelines recommending that pregnant women be asked to take breath tests to prove whether they smoke have been backed by midwives.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) previously criticised the use of breath tests as they could make women feel guilty, and argued that GPs should encourage women to quit smoking instead.

But RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick has now said that the tests could be a ‘partial solution’ and could help midwives educate women in the hope they reduce their baby’s exposure to cigarette smoke.

She said: ‘Midwives have a vital role to play in promoting public health, and reducing smoking in pregnancy is extremely important. I visited a maternity unit this week, and heard from fellow midwives just how helpful these tests can be in showing women the potential damage that smoking can have on their baby.’

‘Of course, not all women will want to take this test. Any test which becomes routine must be offered along with comprehensive information and women must be able to opt out.’

Over at the Telegraph we find the story of a six-year-old who was struck down with rickets despite spending days playing sport in the sun, as his mother plastered him with factor 50 sunscreen.

Suzi Head believed she was protecting her son when applying sunscreen generously, but when he was diagnosed with rickets aged three, it was thought sunscreen was partly to blame.

Ms Head said she thought she had been protecting her son. She said: ‘I was really shocked when we got the diagnosis. Chris has a balanced diet and plays outside all the time.’

‘The doctor told us that the sun was the main source of vitamin D but that using a higher factor sunscreen could stop your body from generating it.

‘After we got home I did some research about rickets and found that Chris had every symptom. Since then I’ve met other mums with children suffering from a similar thing. You’re told that the sun is dangerous and you think that by buying the highest factor sunscreen you’re protecting your family, when that isn’t necessarily the case.’

Paediatric surgeon Professor Nick Clarke warned that this kind of case was a ‘growing problem’ as children are spending less time outdoors, with sunlight being their only source of vitamin D.

He said: ‘This can have important consequences for adult life and we are now linking vitamin D deficiency to multiple sclerosis.’

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