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Obesity may Be Linked to Middle Ear Effusions in Children

Childhood obesity may be associated with a condition known as otitis media with effusion, which consists// of fluid build-up in the middle ear space without symptoms of acute ear infection, according to a report in the April issue of Archives of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Otitis media with effusion, a condition in which fluid is retained in the middle ear space, but without earache, fever or other symptoms, has become increasingly frequent in children, according to background information in the article. Obesity has also become more prevalent in children, but the relationship between these two conditions has not been explored.

Jong Bin Kim, M.D., Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Korea, and colleagues studied 155 children age 2 to 7 (85 boys and 70 girls) who were treated with ear ventilation tubes for otitis media with effusion between 2004 and 2006. The children’s body mass index (BMI), total cholesterol and triglyceride (a type of fat in the blood) levels were compared with those of 118 children (76 boys and 42 girls) who underwent operations for conditions unrelated to ear diseases and had never had this type of ear condition.

The average BMI in the group of children with otitis media with effusion was higher than in the control group (22 vs. 16.3), as was the average total cholesterol level (195 milligrams per deciliter vs. 159.3 milligrams per deciliter). Triglyceride levels did not differ significantly between the two groups.

The researchers also divided the group of children with otitis media with effusion into two groups, one obese and one non-obese, and compared their treatment paths. The analysis was performed defining obesity by BMI and by triglyceride and total cholesterol levels, although standards for obesity using blood cholesterol levels have not been definitively established. "For both triglycerides and total cholesterol, we defined obesity as values not withi n the normal range for age and sex," the authors write. "Using serum triglyceride concentration as the standard, we found that 34.7 percent of children who underwent ventilating tube insertion were obese, whereas with serum total cholesterol concentration as the standard, only 19.2 percent were obese."

"The frequency of ventilating tube insertion in the experimental group was not related to obesity, whether measured by BMI or triglyceride or total cholesterol concentration," the authors write.

"In comparing children with and without otitis media with effusion, we found that childhood obesity was significantly higher in children with otitis media with effusion," the authors conclude. "Childhood obesity may be associated with the occurrence of otitis media with effusion."


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