"This is more evidence that childhood obesity is a serious problem," said Dr. William C. Knowler, chief of diabetes epidemiology and clinical research at the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and a study co-author.
Other factors, such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure, were not significant in these deaths, the researchers noted. However, high blood pressure coupled with high blood sugar were deemed to play a role in the premature deaths.
"Children living today who are obese, who have high blood pressure or who have high blood glucose levels may be more likely to die prematurely than healthy children," Franks said.
"We do not know what the impact is of childhood obesity, hyperglycemia and hypertension on mortality rates later in life," he noted. "Nor do we know by how many years these childhood risk factors shorten life span."
But the hope, Knowler noted, is that by reducing childhood obesity you will also reduce the risk for early death.
"Avoiding becoming obese is certainly better than becoming obese and then reducing weight," he said. "Once someone is obese, restoring normal weight is exceedingly difficult."
Franks added that weight loss in children is not generally recommended, especially if this involves crash dieting.
Simple ways to fight the obesity battle include eating less, reducing portion size and becoming more physically active. In addition, parents should be a model for their children when it comes to healthy eating and exercise, Franks noted.
Edward W. Gregg, chief of epidemiology and statistics for the diabetes program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who wrote an accompanying journal editorial, said that "we have seen increasing obesity in youth for a while and we've seen
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