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Catherine Holecko

Obesity's surprising links

By January 21, 2013

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It's well known that kids who are overweight are at higher risk for long-term health conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes as they reach adulthood. But a study published last month links obesity with a host of other medical and developmental problems occurring in childhood.

Researchers at UCLA analyzed data on more than 43,000 kids, ages 10 to 17. About 15% of the study subjects were overweight (based on BMI), and 16% were obese. Compared with children classified as not overweight, obese children were more likely to have repeated a grade in school. They missed more days of school and had more instances of other school problems. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, depression, learning disability, developmental delay, bone/joint/muscle problems, asthma, allergies, headaches, and ear infections were all more common in obese children. Kids who were overweight, but not obese, also had a higher incidence of these problems, known here as comorbidities.

"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. "Physicians, parents, and teachers should be informed of the specific comorbidities associated with childhood obesity to target interventions that could enhance well-being," the study concludes. This research was published in the journal Academic Pediatrics.

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