For Obese Kids, Serious Health Issues Can Start Early

Posted January 16th, 2013 at 8:01 pm (UTC-4)

Study says that children with a BMI in the 95th percentile are at risk for serious health problems. (Photo: Robert Lawton via Wikimedia Commons)

Children with a BMI in the 95th percentile are at risk for serious health problems, according to a new report. (Photo: Robert Lawton via Wikimedia Commons)

Obese children face many more immediate health issues and are at increased risk for medical, mental and developmental problems than was previously thought, according to a new report.

The study based on UCLA research found that obese children – those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the 95th percentile or above – are nearly two times more likely to have three or more physical or mental conditions than kids with a healthy weight.

Overweight children – those with a BMI in the 85th to 95th percentile – had about 1.3 times higher risk of developing adverse health conditions.

While most previous research focused on long-term health problems which could develop during adulthood, this study looked at the immediate consequences of childhood obesity.

The findings were based on information taken from a much wider and larger sample of participants than previous similar studies, according to researchers. Fifteen percent of the children studied were considered to be overweight and 16 percent were obese.

Compared to their normal-weight peers, obese children were more likely to be in poorer health, have more disabilities and more emotional and behavioral problems, such as having to repeat a grade, missing school and other educational difficulties.

Children classified as obese were also more likely to have conduct disorders, depression, learning disabilities, developmental delays as well as physical ailments such as bone, joint and muscle problems, allergies, headaches, asthma and ear infections.

“This study paints a comprehensive picture of childhood obesity, and we were surprised to see just how many conditions were associated with childhood obesity,” said lead author Dr. Neal Halfon, a UCLA professor who directs the Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities. “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.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers childhood obesity to be “one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century.” In 2010, the WHO found there were more than 42 million children under five worldwide who are overweight. Close to 35 million of those children live in developing countries.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

5 responses to “For Obese Kids, Serious Health Issues Can Start Early”

  1. […] to have three or more physical or mental conditions than kids with a healthy weight. Read more on Voice of America (blog) This entry was posted in Baby and tagged Health, Kids&#39, Much, Than, Thought, Worse, […]

  2. […] UCLA research found that obese children – those … Read more on Voice of America (blog) Posted in Health | Tagged Health, Lastest, […]

  3. Jack says:

    But what about causality? Is it not possible that certain mental and physical illnesses result in obesity – perhaps due to reduced mobility or opportunities to play?

    • Elmer says:

      @Jack: Causality? You are what you eat, and our American obesity epidemic is the consequence of eating a diet excessively rich in sugar (cane sugar, brown sugar, turbinado, honey, molasses, corn syrup, agave syrup among the more “natural” and well known sweeteners as well as industrial chemicals which may not taste sweet that are added to processed foods to improve their texture which our bodies treat just like sugar, e.g. consider names of ingredients that have the root DEXTR as part of their names) and starches (legumes or beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, squashes, pumpkins, rice, and any grains — wheat, spelt, rye, corn, barley, oats, etc). Remember that fruits have plenty of sugar.

      If you eat sugars and starches, you will have to do an awful lot of physical labor lifting and carrying heavy weights for several hours everyday to not get fat, and everybody, sooner for some than others, will gain weight, girth, and inches.

      The good news is that you can stop being fat or avoid getting fat if you’re not yet fat, and the cure for that is easy and simple: Cold turkey style, stop eating both sugar and starch.

      What should you eat? Any vegetable that is green or white that is neither sugar nor starch, plenty of good fats (olive oil, tree nuts but no peanuts because they are legumes, unsweetened nut butters, avocados, coconut, etc), and enough protein. Many foods contain protein, and we need surprisingly few grams of it each day. If you eat only those foods and don’t fall off the wagon, you don’t need to count calories, and your body will stop looking like you’re the Michelin man.

      Note that eating that way is not a reducing diet, but a diet for the rest of your life. You have a choice: Eat no sugar or starch, and you will not be fat, or eat both sugar and starch, and you will be or become fat. It’s simple.

      It’s a choice in our land of freedom, but if you get a disease because you’re fat, only you should pay for all treatment that you may require to cure any of your diseases.

      I almost forgot: Eat normal, i.e. small, servings, and get over having to feel pressure against your innards. No more ice cream, cases of beer, bags of snacks, whole pizzas, etc.

      • Jack says:

        Elmer – you misunderstand. It’s entirely possible that health issues are one of the causes of obesity. For example, a person with certain ailments may not be able exercise sufficiently.