Childhood obesity rates have nearly tripled in the past 30 years and researchers are asking the important question of how this epidemic will impact the future health of these obese children and public health in general. A University of Colorado Cancer Center article published in the journal Gerontology shows that even in cases in which obese children later lose weight, the health effects of childhood obesity may be long-lasting and profound. According to Nadau, MD, investigator at the CU Cancer Center, (2014) the earlier you are exposed to obesity, the earlier complications including type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and cancer begin.
Such complications do not happen overnight, and the earlier in life that the causes are addressed, the more likely it is that sickness and mortality caused by such effects of obesity can be reduced. Alarmingly, childhood obesity seems to make a person considerably more inclined to complications than obesity that occurs at a later age. It may be that childhood obesity changes the way the whole metabolism is working — and changes it during a critical developmental time frame’ says Nadeau.
Previous studies have shown the natural contribution of childhood obesity to adult obesity, which in turn leads to complications, but recent evidence shows that childhood obesity may also create these effects independent of adult obesity. Even if the patient loses weight and overcomes obesity in adulthood, childhood obesity may itself be enough to cause outcomes including metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and its associated cardiovascular, retinal complications, fatty liver disease, obstructive sleep apnea, polycystic ovarian syndrome, infertility, asthma, orthopedic complications, psychiatric disease, and increased rates of cancer, among others.
Unfortunately, our ability to draw firm conclusions is complicated by a lack of data. Since the epidemic of childhood obesity is still relatively new, we simply do not have the longitudinal data to know how childhood obesity affects late-life health. The people who were children in, say, 1980 near the start of this rise in obesity rates are only reaching their 40’s & 50’s. Therefore, one major message of Nadeau’s study is that researchers need increased funding aimed at tracking kids for a lifetime, so we are not just speculating about these long-term effects. However, what is already clear to researchers is that early prevention of obesity in childhood is essential because the disease causes significant health problems and the consequences can be extreme. Instead of trying to cure the effects of childhood obesity parents are advised to instead act to early intervene the onset of obesity in childhood.