Research shows rates of severe childhood obesity have tripled

Jul 29, 2009

Rates of severe childhood obesity have tripled in the last 25 years, putting many children at risk for diabetes and heart disease, according to a report in Academic Pediatrics by an obesity expert at Brenner Children's Hospital, part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

"Children are not only becoming obese, but becoming severely obese, which impacts their overall ," said Joseph Skelton, M.D., lead author and director of the Brenner FIT (Families in Training) Program. "These findings reinforce the fact that medically-based programs to treat obesity are needed throughout the United States and insurance companies should be encouraged to cover this care."

The research was published on-line and will appear in the September print edition. Skelton and colleagues compared data from the National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES). They looked at the prevalence of obesity and severe obesity in a study population of 12,384 children, representing approximately 71 million U.S. children ages 2 to 19 years.

Severe childhood obesity is a new classification for children and describes those with a body mass index (BMI) that is equal to or greater than the 99th percentile for age and gender. For example, a 10-year-old child with a BMI of 24 would be considered severely obese, Skelton said, whereas in an adult, that is considered a normal BMI. An expert committee convened by the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services proposed the new classification in 2007.

The research by Skelton and colleagues is the first of its kind to use the new classification and detail the severity of the problem. They found that the prevalence of severe obesity tripled (from 0.8 percent to 3.8 percent) in the period from 1976-80 to 1999-2004. Based on the data, there are 2.7 million children in the U.S. who are considered severely obese.

Increases in severe obesity were highest among blacks and Mexican-Americans and among those below the poverty level. For example, the percentage of Mexican-American children in the severely obese category was 0.9 percent in 1976-80 and 5.2 percent in 1999-2004.

Researchers also looked at the impact of severe obesity and found that a third of children in the severely obese category were classified as having metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors for heart attack, stroke and diabetes. These risk factors include higher-than normal blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin levels.

"These findings demonstrate the significant health risks facing this morbidly obese group," wrote the researchers in their report. "This places demands on health care and community services, especially because the highest rates are among who are frequently underserved by the health care system."

Source: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (news : web)

Explore further: AMA examines economic impact of physicians

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Obese children show early signs of heart disease

Oct 17, 2007

Children who are obese or who are at risk for obesity show early signs of heart disease similar to obese adults with heart disease, a study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found.

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

15 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

15 hours ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

16 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Scientists make critical end-stage liver discovery

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers in the University of Arizona's College of Pharmacy has discovered a molecular pathway that could be key to creating new therapeutics that would slow or even reverse ...

Atom probe assisted dating of oldest piece of earth

(Phys.org) —It's a scientific axiom: big claims require extra-solid evidence. So there were skeptics in 2001 when University of Wisconsin-Madison geoscience professor John Valley dated an ancient crystal ...