Kids Health

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Severe Obesity Becoming More Common in Sixth-Graders

Sixth-graders across the country are getting fatter and fatter, according to a new study appearing online in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Researchers screened 6,365 middle-school children at 42 schools in diverse regions of the country.


The increasing rate of severe obesity in children requires particular attention “because it is associated with high rates of risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease as children get older,” says Marsha Marcus, lead study author and head of the Eating Disorders Program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.


Doctors define severe obesity differently in children than they do in adults: In children, the measurement used is a percentile of body mass index for age and sex. For this study, researchers considered children with a BMI in the 99th percentile to be severely obese, and 6.9 percent of students fell into this category.


Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, says some children, who are severely obese according to their BMIs, do not always look heavy. “As a culture, we have become used to seeing heavier children so the visual norm has shifted,” she says. “Because of this, many children are at risk of not receiving help since their parents do not see them as obese.”


Beware of High Blood Sugar During Pregnancy

Children of mothers whose blood glucose (sugar) level was high during pregnancy are more likely to have low insulin sensitivity — a risk factor for type 2 diabetes — even after taking into consideration the children’s body weight, a new study shows.


“We know that children born to women with type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes, or who have high blood sugar during pregnancy, are at risk of becoming diabetic themselves,” says study co-author Paula Chandler-Laney, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “This study suggests that the children’s increased risk appears to be due, at least in part, to their prenatal exposure to relatively high maternal blood glucose.”


Chandler-Laney and her colleagues studied children ages 5-10. They also evaluated the pregnancy medical records of the children’s mothers to determine maternal blood-sugar concentration during the oral glucose-tolerance test. The researchers found that the higher the mother’s blood sugar levels during pregnancy, the lower her child’s insulin sensitivity.


“High maternal blood glucose during pregnancy may have lasting effects on children’s insulin sensitivity and secretion,” Chandler-Laney says. “Obstetricians, pediatricians and pregnant women should all be aware of the potential far-reaching consequences that elevated blood sugar during pregnancy can have on children’s health.”


Don’t Break a Leg!

What’s the harm of going down a playground slide with your child on your lap? According to a new study published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics, 13.8 percent of tibia (shin) fractures in U.S. kids happened while a parent and child did just that. The injury occurred when the child’s leg got stuck in one place while the adult and child continued to move down the slide.


Cavities and Excess Body Fat Could Be Linked

Preschool children with tooth decay may be more likely to be overweight or obese a new study indicates. “Dental decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood, and obesity in youth is a growing problem. To prevent these problems, the dentist’s office may be an important place to educate families about nutrition,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Kathleen Bethin, a pediatrician at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Buffalo in New York.


With funding from the New York State Department of Health, doctors studied the relationship between poor dental health and weight in 65 children ages 2-5. All children needed dental work due to decay, and had their dental procedure and blood work performed while they were under anesthesia. Each child’s height and weight were measured before the procedure to calculate the body mass index. Also, each child’s parent or guardian completed a questionnaire about the child’s recent average daily food consumption. Almost 28 percent of the children were overweight or obese, consuming more calories per day than recommended for their age (1,570). The daily recommended caloric intake for children ranges from 1,000 to 1,400 calories depending on age and gender.


Kathy Sena is a freelance journalist specializing in health and parenting, and is the mother of a 14-year-old son. Visit her blog at