A girl in her teens who is obese has a much greater chance of dying during middle age than a teenage girl of normal weight, according to researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health. With childhood obesity in many parts of the world on the increase, in years to come we could see life-expectancy coming down.

In much of the developed world, and some parts of the developing world, teenage obesity is growing at an alarming rate. In the USA 15.5% of teenagers are overweight.

The study, carried out by Dr. Frank Hu, and team, is published in The Annals of Internal Medicine. Dr. Hu said the study underscores the importance of childhood obesity. He stressed that childhood obesity not only affects the health of children, it is also a significant contributory factor towards death in adulthood.

Dr. Hu said "The link between childhood obesity and premature death is an important public-health issue. Prevention at early ages is an important strategy to combat this problem."

This study looked at 102,400 women in the Nurses Health Study 2. At the start of the study period, the women were aged 24-44. They had all filled a questionnaire which included their weight when they were 18. They were followed up for 12 years. During these 12 years 710 of them died.

The researchers found that those who were obese at 18 were three times as likely to die at middle age compared to those who were of normal weight at 18. This was after adjustments had been made for such factors as cigarette smoking, alcohol use and physical activity during adolescence.

The Relationship between Overweight in Adolescence and Premature Death in Women
Rob M. van Dam, PhD; Walter C. Willett, MD; JoAnn E. Manson, MD; and Frank B. Hu, MD
Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; and Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Annals of Internal Medicine
18 July 2006 | Volume 145 Issue 2 | Pages 91-97
Link To Abstract




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