Study links childhood obesity to premature death

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — Obesity, glucose intolerance and hypertension in childhood may play a significant role in premature death, according to a study published in the Feb. 11 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

The study examined 4,857 non-diabetic Native American children who were born between 1945 and 1984, when they were 11 years old on average, looking at premature death risk factors such as body mass index (B.M.I.), glucose tolerance, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

A total of 559 deaths were recorded in individuals before they reached the age of 55, including 166 who died of causes other than accidents and homicides, or “endogenous causes.” The rates of death from endogenous causes among children in the highest quartile of B.M.I. were more than double those among children in the lowest B.M.I. quartile. Meanwhile, the rates of death among children in the highest quartile of glucose intolerance were 73% higher than those among children in the lowest quartile, the study showed.

The study did not find a link between high cholesterol levels and premature death.

“Childhood obesity is becoming increasingly prevalent around the globe,” the research wrote. “Our observations, combined with those of other investigators, suggest that failure to reverse this trend may have wide-reaching consequences for the quality of life and longevity. Such evidence underscores the importance of preventing obesity starting in the early years of life.”

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