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Childhood Obesity linked to Several Health Complications, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 25, 2014 10:59 AM EST

According to a new study, childhood obesity can increase children's risk of liver disease, hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiovascular disease.

For this study, the team examined almost 500 participants between the ages of two and 17, who were diagnosed with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is a disease that is common in overweight and obese youngsters.

Overall, about 36 percent of the sample also had hypertension at the start of the study. 21 percent of them had persistent hypertension 48 weeks later. Girls were more likely than boys to have persistent hypertension. High blood pressure, in general, is present in two to five percent of all children and in 10 percent of obese children.

"As a result of our study, we recommend that blood pressure evaluation, control and monitoring should be included as an integral component of the clinical management of children with NAFLD, especially because this patient population is at greater risk for heart attacks and strokes," the study's lead investigator, Dr. Jeffrey Schwimmer, from the department of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, said in a university news release reported by Philly. "Hypertension is a main cause of preventable death and disability in the United States in adults, but much of the origin occurs in childhood."

The researchers added that children with NAFLD and hypertension were more likely to have a greater amount of fat in their liver when compared with non-hypertensive children. The team stressed the importance of monitoring and managing high blood pressure in at-risk children.

"Parents and doctors need to be aware of the health risks of children who have NAFLD. The sooner high blood pressure is identified and treated in this patient population, the healthier they will be as they transition into adulthood," Schwimmer concluded.

The study, "Longitudinal Assessment of High Blood Pressure in Children with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease," was published in the journal, PLOS ONE.

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