Extreme Obesity Rates in Children Means Unhealthy Adults
Extreme obesity is now found to be more prevalent among children, and at a younger age. The new finding that extreme obesity is becoming more prevalent among children also means more unhealthy adults with shorter lifespans.
Without major lifestyle changes, extremely obese children are at risk for a variety of chronic diseases in adulthood including heart disease, fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes and disabilities from joint problems. Too much body fat in childhood and adolescence can increase the risk of various types of cancer, and lead to early death.
A study conducted by Kaiser Permanente that included 710,949 children ages two to 19, enrolled in the Southern California integrated health plan in 2007 and 2008, found more than 45,000 extremely obese children, defined as body mass index (BMI) of more than 35 kilograms/meter.
Lead author Corinna Koebnick, PhD, a research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research and Evaluation in Pasadena, California says, "Children who are extremely obese may continue to be extremely obese as adults, and all the health problems associated with obesity are in these children's futures. Without major lifestyle changes, these kids face a 10 to 20 years shorter life span and will develop health problems in their twenties that we typically see in 40 - 60 year olds.”
Study co-author Amy Porter, MD, a Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park pediatrician who heads the Pediatric Weight Management Initiative for Kaiser Permanente's Southern California Region explains that concerns about extreme obesity rates found among children in the study have nothing to do with appearance, but rather “all about health”.
Porter says curbing rates of extreme obesity found among children at a younger age is a family issue that needs to be addressed.
“There is rarely one extremely obese kid in a house where everyone else is extremely healthy. It's important that everyone in the family is invested in achieving a healthier lifestyle," Porter said.
The study is part of an effort from Kaiser Permanente to identify and target ways to curb childhood obesity. The study is “only the beginning”, Koebnick said. The Kaiser group is a founding partner of the Partnership for a Healthier America that is part of Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity campaign.
Ongoing studies include identifying the long term health risks of extreme childhood obesity, which groups are most affected, and what kind of strategies can be used to reduce obesity health risks. The current findings revealed extreme obesity was most prevalent among black teenage girls and Hispanic boys, with the lowest incidence among Asian-Pacific Islanders and non-Hispanic white children. Extreme childhood obesity that is found at younger ages means more unhealthy younger adults in the future.