Childhood obesity has become an epidemic. In the past three decades, it has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported. A new study has found that obese children are at risk of developing serious weight-related problems, including Type 2 diabetes, heart and liver disease, and recommends that serious measures be introduced to combat the problem.

Researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zeland examined over 200 children and teenagers aged 4 to 16 years who were participating in a 12-month program which involved regular home visits from a health professional and found that 75 percent had signs of inflammation and increasing long-term heart disease risk.

"These children are not just carrying a bit of extra weight — they also have health indicators that can be life-limiting if left unaddressed," said Dr. Yvonne Anderson, a pediatrician and co-author of the study.

Additionally, 40 percent of the studied children had physical signs of high risk for Type 2 diabetes, 47 percent had at least one abnormal liver function test, and 11 percent had abnormal blood pressure. Children as young as five also had signs suggesting obstructive sleep apnea.

"We knew these findings were likely to be present in these children given previous studies in other countries," said Dr. Anderson. "What was concerning was how common they were from a young age."

Overweight and obesity are also associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, according to the CDC.

"Obesity is everyone's problem and we all need to be part of the solution," said Dr. Anderson. "If we are going to make a difference to those most affected by obesity, [health interventions] that they feel comfortable with, and that fit in with their lives, are key."

Source: Anderson YC et al. Prevalence Of Comorbidities In Obese New Zealand Children And Adolescents At Enrolment In A Community-Based Obesity Programme. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. 2016.

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