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Children's Health

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Forecast: Tsunami of Heart Disease

Overweight Kids Become Adults With Sick Hearts; Huge Problem Seen by 2035

Tsunami of Heart Disease Predicted continued...

A computer simulation by Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, suggests that today's teen obesity epidemic means that by 2020, 30% to 37% of 35-year-old men and 34% to 44% of 35-year-old women will be obese.

By 2035, there would be up to a 16% increase in heart disease cases, with over 100,000 cases due to obesity, the researchers predict.

Both the Baker and Biggins-Domingo reports appear in the Dec. 6 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

In an editorial accompanying the studies, Harvard researcher David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD, predicts that by 2050, the U.S. obesity epidemic will cut Americans' life span by two to five years. That effect would be equal to the effect of all cancers combined.

"We lack anything resembling a comprehensive strategy for encouraging children to eat a healthful diet and engage in physical activity," Ludwig writes.

He suggests that a sensible strategy would:

  • Regulate junk-food advertising
  • Fund healthy lunches and physical activities at school
  • Restructure farm subsidies to reward production of nutrient-dense produce rather than calorie-dense produce
  • Require that insurers cover programs to prevent and treat child obesity

At the bottom of the Pandora's box of child obesity, Baker finds hope.

"Even though we are showing that children's body size puts them at risk, there is still a ray of hope in what we find," she says. "Because risks are moderate at age 7 and increase by age 13, it suggests that helping these children attain and maintain appropriate weight -- even during this short time -- can really improve their future outlook."

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