The statistics reflect that the rate of severe childhood obesity has tripled over the last 25 years and five percent of U.S. children are classified as “severely obese”.
A statement was released by the American Heart Association published online in the journal Circulation.
“Severe obesity in young people has grave health consequences,” said Aaron Kelly, Ph.D., lead author of the statement and a researcher at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis. “It’s a much more serious childhood disease than obesity.”
Severely obese children at a young age already battle with higher rates of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and early signs of atherosclerosis.
The statement by the American Heart Association defines children over age 2 as severely obese if they either have a body mass index (BMI) that’s at least 20 percent higher than the 95th percentile for their gender and age, or a BMI score of 35 or higher. A child in the 95th percentile weighs more than 95 percent of other children of the same gender and age.
BMI is a measurement based on weight and height. Age- and gender-specific growth charts are used to calculate BMI for children. Children at the 95th BMI percentile or higher are obese, and those between the 85th and 95th percentiles are overweight.
A 7-year-old girl of average height weighing 75 pounds, or a 13-year-old boy of average height weighing 160 pounds, would be defined as severely obese.
Treatment options for severely obese children are limited.
“The step from lifestyle change and medication to surgery is unacceptably large because weight loss surgery isn’t appropriate for or available to all severely obese children,” Kelly said.
Related statistics and research published in Archives of Disease in Childhood demonstrates the health risk children are exposed to with two out of three severely obese kids already having at least one risk factor for heart disease.
The findings are based on statistical date supplied by pediatricians to the Dutch Paediatric Surveillance Unit between 2005 and 2007, where doctors treating all new cases of severe obesity in children from the ages of 2 to 18 across The Netherlands were asked to supply information on their patients’ cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood pressure, fasting blood glucose levels, and blood fats (lipids).
Just over half (52%) of these 307 children were boys. They tended to be more severely obese at the younger end of the age spectrum; the reverse was true of girls. Full information on cardiovascular risk factors was available for 255 (83%).
Two out of three (67%) had at least one cardiovascular risk factor. Over half (56%) had high blood pressure; a similar proportion (54%) had high levels of low density ‘bad’ cholesterol; one in seven (14%) had high fasting blood glucose; and just under 1 per cent already had type 2 diabetes. Only one child had a medical condition that triggered obesity.
“The prevalence of impaired fasting glucose in [these children] is worrying, considering the increasing prevalence worldwide of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents”.”Likewise, the high prevalence of hypertension and abnormal lipids may lead to cardiovascular disease in young adulthood”, the authors concluded.
BMJ-British Medical Journal (2012, July 23). Two out of three very obese kids already have heart disease risk factors: High blood pressure,
A. S. Kelly, S. E. Barlow, G. Rao, T. H. Inge, L. L. Hayman, J. Steinberger, E. M. Urbina, L. J. Ewing, S. R. Daniels. Severe Obesity in Children and Adolescents: Identification, Associated Health Risks, and Treatment Approaches: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation, 2013; DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0b013e3182a5cfb3
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (2009, July 30). Rates Of Severe Childhood Obesity Have Triple