Obesity now affects one in five children in the United States. Discrimination against overweight children begins early in childhood and becomes progressively institutionalized. Because obese children tend to be taller than their nonoverweight peers, they are apt to be viewed as more mature. The inappropriate expectations that result may have an adverse effect on their socialization. Many of the cardiovascular consequences that characterize adult-onset obesity are preceded by abnormalities that begin in childhood. Hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and abnormal glucose tolerance occur with increased frequency in obese children and adolescents. The relationship of cardiovascular risk factors to visceral fat independent of total body fat remains unclear. Sleep apnea, pseudotumor cerebri, and Blount's disease represent major sources of morbidity for which rapid and sustained weight reduction is essential. Although several periods of increased risk appear in childhood, it is not clear whether obesity with onset early in childhood carries a greater risk of adult morbidity and mortality.
Obesity is now the most prevalent nutritional disease of children and adolescents in the United States. Although obesity-associated morbidities occur more frequently in adults, significant consequences of obesity as well as the antecedents of adult disease occur in obese children and adolescents. In this review, I consider the adverse effects of obesity in children and adolescents and attempt to outline areas for future research. I refer to obesity as a body mass index greater than the 95th percentile for children of the same age and gender.
- Received October 24, 1997.
- Accepted November 6, 1997.
- Copyright © 1998 American Academy of Pediatrics