TUESDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- Obese children hospitalized for certain serious illnesses may have a higher risk of dying than thinner patients, a new research review suggests.
Experts caution that the findings are just "suggestive" of a link, and do not prove that critically ill children are more likely to die if they're obese.
But the results, published online March 11 in JAMA Pediatrics, add to the list of potential risks tied to childhood obesity.
Past studies have found that obese children face higher rates of some long-term health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. They also tend to become obese adults, with all the potential health consequences that come with that, including increased risks of heart disease and certain cancers.
"This (study) suggests there may be more to childhood obesity than the risks we already know of," said lead researcher Lori Bechard, a clinical nutrition specialist at Boston Children's Hospital. "There may also be some near-term risks."
Bechard stressed, however, that the studies in her team's review had a number of limitations. They also varied widely in how they were done, and even in how they defined obesity.
"We don't feel confident that we can say there is an association" between obesity and seriously ill children's risk of dying, Bechard said. "We need more research."
Given that roughly 17 percent of U.S. children and teens are obese, this possible connection, if proven, could have significant implications.
The findings are based on data from 28 past studies of children ages 2 to 18 who were hospitalized for various reasons. Twenty-one studies looked at kids' risk of dying, and half of them found that for children with serious illnesses, obesity was linked to an increased risk of death.
The studies that did find a link tended to be larger and better done than
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