THE QUESTION Overweight and obese youths face a litany of likely health problems as they age, including heart disease and diabetes. Might that change if the excess pounds are shed?
THIS STUDY analyzed data from four studies, involving 6,328 people who were about 11 years old at the start of the study and were followed for an average of 23 years. About 12 percent were overweight or obese as children. Most of them (about 65 percent) remained that way as adults. Compared with people who were of normal weight as children and adults, those who were consistently overweight had a fivefold greater chance of having Type 2 diabetes, three times greater odds of having high blood pressure and double the risk for bad cholesterol levels and clogged arteries. However, those who had been overweight or obese in their youth but became normal-weight adults had about the same risk for these health issues as people who were normal weight consistently from childhood to adulthood.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Youths who are overweight or obese. In the past three decades, obesity rates among U.S. children and adolescents have nearly tripled, reaching 17.5 million, or about 17 percent of youths 2 to 19 years old.
CAVEATS Nearly all study participants were white; whether the findings apply to other races and ethnicities is not clear. Data used in the study did not indicate the exact timing of participants’ weight loss, so whether that made a difference was not determined.
FIND THIS STUDY Nov. 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (www.nejm.org).
LEARN MORE ABOUT childhood obesity at www.nichd.nih.gov/health and www.healthychildren.
org (click “health issues”).
— Linda Searing
The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.