Childhood obesity is linked to more immediate health problems than doctors formerly realized

While a plethora of research on childhood obesity has linked it to long-term health problems, a new UCLA study focuses on the condition’s more proximate consequences, showing that obese children are at a greater risk for immediate health problems than previously thought. That’s important for Kentucky, which ranks poorly in many health measures and is third highest in child obesity. (Photo by Tara Kaprowy)

“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 professor of pediatrics, public health and public policy at UCLA.

Compared to kids who are not overweight, the study found that obese children have nearly twice the risk of having three or more reported medical, mental or developmental conditions. Specific medical conditions included bone, joint and muscle problems; asthma; allergies; headaches; and ear infections. Obese children also reported a greater tendency toward emotional and behavioral problems, higher rates of grade repetition, missed school days and other school problems, ADHD, conduct disorder, depression, learning disabilities, and developmental delays.

The study provides the first comprehensive national profile of associations between weight status and a broad set of associated health conditions, a UCLA release said. Halfon said these findings should serve as a wake-up call to physicians, parents and teachers, who should be better informed of the risk for health conditions associated with childhood obesity. (Read more)

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