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Five Percent of Children Are Severely Obese

Update Date: Sep 10, 2013 03:09 PM EDT

Obesity is diagnosed by measuring one's body mass index (BMI), which calculates the ratio of height to weight in relation to age. A BMI of over 30 is considered obese. Even though doctors use this measurement all the time, a new report suggests that another category titled "severely obese" needs to be added for children. The researchers from the American Heart Association (AHA) reported that since childhood obesity leads to an earlier onset of deadly diseases if weight is not managed, children who need the most help must be categorized as severely obese. According to the report, five percent of children would fall under this section.

"We are defining a new class of pediatric obesity called 'severe' obesity," the lead researcher, Aaron Kelly who is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School said according to WebMD. "This type of obesity is different than traditional obesity and overweight in children. It is an extreme form of obesity."

The researchers stated that children who would be classified as severely obese would be the ones that are at a greater risk of premature heart disease and type 2 diabetes due to their weight. In addition, a BMI of over 35 would also indicate that the child is extremely obese. A BMI of over 35 means that the child is above the 95th percentile for their age and sex, which indicates that the child weights more than 95 percent of the average weight of the other children in the same age and sex. 

The report stresses the importance of getting the weight down for all children who weigh above the normal range. However, for children with severe obesity, their risks are generally higher than other children. Children who are severely obese are more likely to remain morbidly obese into adulthood, which puts them at a greater risk of developing hypertension, heart diseases, asthma, sleep apnea, and even mental health issues, such as low self-esteem. The researchers believe that pediatricians and other researchers must help create a new way of motivating these children to lose weight. Previous studies have shown that diet and exercise have limited effects on young children.

"Pediatricians need other options besides just lifestyle therapy to treat this disease," Kelly explained.

The report was published in Circulation

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