Skip to content

    Children's Health

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Obese Children Twice as Likely to Die Young?

    By
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Feb. 10, 2010 -- Childhood obesity more than doubles the risk of dying before age 55, according to a new long-term study that followed nearly 5,000 children.

    ''The bottom line is, obesity in kids is a serious problem that needs to be taken seriously," study co-author William C. Knowler, MD, DrPH, tells WebMD. Although experts have known that for years, he says, the new research is definite confirmation.

    "What this particular study shows is, obesity is going to cause excess premature death," says Knowler, chief of the Diabetes Epidemiology and Clinical Research Section of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

    Although recent data suggest a leveling off of obesity in the U.S., one in six teens is obese.

    The study is in the New England Journal of Medicine.

    Obesity in Childhood, Early Death Linked

    Knowler and his colleagues evaluated 4,857 American Indian children who were born between 1945 and 1984, then followed them long-term. Most participants were at least half Pima or Tohono O'odham Indian. They lived in the area of the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona.

    The researchers gathered data about the children's body mass index (BMI), glucose tolerance, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. None of the children had diabetes at the beginning of the study, although 559 developed it during the study.

    During a median follow-up period of nearly 24 years (half followed longer, half less), there were 166 deaths from natural causes before age 55. There were 393 deaths from external causes, such as accidents or homicide, before 55.

    The researchers divided the participants into four groups, or quartiles, depending on their BMI. In all, 28.7% of the children were obese, according to their BMI.

    Higher BMI, Higher Premature Death Risk

    The researchers compared the risk of early death for those in the four BMI quartiles. "Those in the top quartile had over twice the rate of death from natural causes before age 55 as those in the lowest quartile of BMI," Knowler says.

    Among these natural causes of death were alcoholic liver disease, cardiovascular disease, infections, cancer, diabetes, acute alcohol poisoning, and drug overdose.

    ''Obesity was not related to external causes of death, such as auto accidents," Knowler says.

    Today on WebMD

    child with red rash on cheeks
    What’s that rash?
    plate of fruit and veggies
    How healthy is your child’s diet?
     
    smiling baby
    Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
    Middle school band practice
    Understanding your child’s changing body.
     

    worried kid
    fitArticle
    jennifer aniston
    Slideshow
     
    Measles virus
    Article
    sick child
    Slideshow
     

    babyapp
    New
    Child with adhd
    Slideshow
     
    rl with friends
    fitSlideshow
    Child Coughing or Sneezing into Elbow
    Article