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Children's Health

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Obese Children Twice as Likely to Die Young?

Other Risk Factors and Premature Death

Knowler's team also evaluated whether glucose levels, cholesterol levels, or blood pressure during childhood boosted risk of premature death.

Death rates from natural causes among children in the highest group of glucose intolerance (a risk factor for developing diabetes) were 73% higher than among the children in the lowest group of glucose intolerance, the researchers found.

No substantial links were found between cholesterol levels and premature deaths. They did find that high blood pressure in childhood raised the risk of premature death from natural causes by about 1.5 times.

"Obesity was a stronger predictor of premature death than either abnormal glucose, cholesterol, or blood pressure," Knowler tells WebMD.

Childhood Obesity and Risk of Death: Other Opinions

The new study is timely and important, says Marc Jacobson, MD, a Great Neck, N.Y., pediatrician who specializes in caring for children with obesity and cholesterol problems. "It gives us more hard data about the long-term effects of adolescent obesity," he says.

Jacobson serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics' Obesity Leadership Workgroup. The Academy recommends that BMI be measured in all children and that those with a BMI above the 85th percentile be helped to get it below the 85th percentile, which is considered a healthy weight, he says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a tool parents can use called 5210, Jacobson says. "It's used to prevent childhood obesity." It stands for:

  • 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • 2 hours or less of television viewing daily
  • 1 hour of exercise daily
  • 0 or nearly zero sugar-sweetened beverages daily

In an editorial accompanying the new study, Edward W. Gregg, PhD, of the DC, notes that the Pima Indians studied in the research are sometimes viewed as not representative of the U.S. population because their risk of diabetes is especially high.

But, he points out that 4% of the participants in the study had impaired glucose tolerance, a percentage similar to the 3% of U.S. teens overall who have the condition. And the condition affects 9.5% of obese teens, he says.

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