THURSDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Obese children -- already known to be at higher risk for heart disease and other ills in adulthood -- may also experience more immediate problems, including asthma, learning disabilities and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to a new study.
"Childhood obesity not only has long-term impact in terms of future heart disease, diabetes and other problems that we have been hearing so many things about," said study author Dr. Neal Halfon, director of the Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"It also has an immediate impact on the health, mental health and development of children," said Halfon, a professor of pediatrics, public health and public policy.
But which comes first -- obesity or the other health concerns -- is unclear. Also unknown is whether additional factors might play a role in both conditions.
For the study, Halfon used weight and other health-related data from the 2007 U.S. National Survey of Children's Health on nearly 43,300 kids aged 10 to 17.
Fifteen percent of the children were overweight and 16 percent were obese. The analysis turned up an association between obesity and 19 measures of general health, psychosocial functioning and specific health disorders.
Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 12.5 million children and teens (17 percent) are obese. Other childhood-onset health conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), asthma and learning disabilities have increased during the same period, suggesting some common links.
Halfon used standard definitions of overweight and obesity based on body mass index (BMI), a measurement of height and weight. Overweight is a BMI of 25 to 29.9 (in the 85
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