Childhood Obesity Is A Weightier, More Immediate Problem For Youth Than Previously Thought

by , 01/18/13

behavior problems, chronic health conditions, childhood weight, childhood weight gain, healthy kids, junk food, obese kids, obesity ads, comorbidity, obesity, childhood obesity, child health

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

A new large population study out of Johns Hopkins and UCLA, shows that parents can no longer kid themselves about the non-dangers of childhood obesity. In the study, researchers performed cross-sectional analysis of data on 43,297 children aged 10 to 17, noting weights and heights of the children, then assessing associations between weight status and 21 indicators of general health, psychosocial functioning, and specific health disorders. What the researchers found was sobering. 15% of US children in the study were overweight and 16% were obese. The obese children in the study were at twice the risk of their healthy weight peers of having three or more medical, mental or developmental conditions — while overweight kids had a 1.3 times higher risk of the same conditions. Most past childhood obesity studies look at the long-term, such as if your child is overweight, he’ll be at risk for diseases as an adult. But this new study is unique, as it focuses on the more immediate health consequences of childhood obesity and manages to show that overweight youth face far greater immediate and long-term health risks than previously thought. Lead author Dr. Neal Halfon, a professor of pediatrics, public health and public policy at UCLA notes:

This study paints a comprehensive picture of childhood obesity, and we were surprised to see just how many conditions were associated with childhood obesity. The findings should serve as a wake-up call to physicians, parents and teachers, who should be better informed of the risk for other health conditions associated with childhood obesity so that they can target interventions that can result in better health outcomes.

Keep reading to learn about some of the very real health consequences that obese and overweight children face.

behavior problems, chronic health conditions, childhood weight, childhood weight gain, healthy kids, junk food, obese kids, obesity ads, comorbidity, obesity, childhood obesity, child health

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Health Consequences of Childhood Weight Gain

Being an overweight or obese child is associated with many negative health consequences. Some of the health problems reported in this study include the following:

  • Poorer overall postive health status.
  • Lower emotional functioning and school related problems, such as being held back a grade.
  • Higher instances of diabetes. Past studies shows a strong correlation between childhood obesity and adult diabetes, but in this study, a lot of data showed that diabetes is becoming a significant problem by age 15 to 17 and the researchers note, “The relationship between obesity and diabetes is well under way beginning in adolescence.

Most alarming were the higher rates of specific comorbid conditions reported in this study. Comorbid conditions refers to having more than one health issue associated with a primary condition, meaning obesity may lead to heart disease AND diabetes. In this study, comorbid conditions of youth included ADHD, conduct disorders, depression, learning disabilities, developmental delay,  poor teeth, bone/joint/muscle problems, asthma, allergies, headaches and ear infections. The higher a child’s weight, the more likely they were to experience a higher prevalence of comorbid conditions and greater numbers of comorbidities. Overall, higher-weight-status categories were consistently associated with more health problems for youth, a finding that many past studies back up.

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