More than 3 million children in the United States who
are severely obese may be at a higher risk of developing heart disease and
diabetes than overweight children, according to a new study by researchers at Wake
Forest Baptist Medical Center and the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill. And these medical problems could cost billions.
study, which is published in the Oct. 1 issue of the New England Journal of
Medicine, found that children with the more severe forms of obesity showed
early signs of heart disease and diabetes, with the differences most notable in
we are spending approximately $160 billion a year to take care of
obesity-related medical problems in adults,” said Joseph Skelton, M.D.,
associate professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest Baptist and senior author of
the study. “If the trend continues and we factor in the growing number of kids
with severe obesity, it is estimated to go up to $300 billion by 2030.”
the study, the researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey of overweight or obese children ages 3 to 19 to assess the
prevalence of cardiometabolic risk factors according to the severity of
obesity, using new classifications developed over the past few years.
8,579 children with a body-mass index (BMI) at the 85th percentile or higher,
46.9 percent were overweight, 36.4 percent had Class I obesity, 11.9 percent
had Class II obesity and 4.8 percent had Class III obesity. The more severe
forms of obesity – Class II and Class III – were defined as a BMI greater than
120 percent of the 95th percentile for Class II and greater than 140 percent of
the 95th percentile for Class III.
study showed that the greater the severity of obesity, the higher the risks of
a low HDL cholesterol level, high systolic and diastolic blood pressures, and
high triglyceride and hemoglobin A1C levels – all markers for heart disease and
findings clearly show that children at the higher levels of obesity have higher
cardiometabolic risk factors that can lead to future heart disease and
diabetes,” said Asheley Cockrell Skinner, Ph.D., associate professor of
pediatrics at UNC School of Medicine and lead investigator of the study.
the confluence of risks and limited resources leaves many children with severe
obesity and established risk factors without effective options, according to
the study. Implementing a more complex classification system to identify those
at the highest risk could help target interventions and treatments to those
children and be more cost effective.
findings could change how we screen and treat obese children,” Skelton said.
“For kids with less severe obesity, perhaps it may not be necessary to put them
through drawing blood and testing cholesterol, and instead only screen those at
higher levels of obesity and focus treatment on the children at greatest risk.”
of the study are: Eliana M. Perrin, M.D., and Leslie A. Moss, M.H.A., of UNC School