New Childhood Obesity Data Points to Potential Dis
> 12/6/2007 11:00:59 AM

Using a computer modeling program to project current health statistics into the future, a team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and Columbia University have arrived at a potentially catastrophic conclusion. Analyzing obesity data from 2000, researchers estimate that 35% of men and 44% of women will be obese in 2020. Moving even further forward, these obesity levels will lead to more than 100,000 additional cases of heart disease by 2035—a total 16% increase over today's levels.

Other studies have looked at the potential results of today's childhood obesity epidemic, including considerably higher rates of diabetes and asthma, but this study focused solely on heart disease. Using the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model, first developed at the Harvard School of Public Health, the team was able to calculate estimations of heart disease levels if obesity trends continue as they have. As they point out in the study's abstract, no projections can ever be perfect as many variables are in play, but even in their most conservative estimates we will be facing an enormous public health burden in the all-too-near future.

As one researcher notes in the UCSF press release, it's hard to not be concerned when one considers that humans are typically slimmer in their youth:

“We must recall that we all tend to gain weight as we age, so overweight in adolescents means even higher weights later on,” said Lee Goldman, MD, MPH, the senior author and an original developer of the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model used in the study... “Although the general findings of our analysis are not surprising, we were struck by the sheer magnitude of the impact of adolescent obesity and, as a result, how important it is as a public health priority,” he added.

The conclusions reached in this study are still years off, meaning there is time to make changes. The real concern is that there is no precedent for these levels of obesity at these ages. No precedent exists for exploring the bodily development of an obese 8-year-old. Do changes take place at the neurological level? How is the development of other internal organs and structures affected by the added burden of carrying unnecessary weight? Other research shows that with proper changes, overweight adolescents and teens can get healthy and stay healthy, but only time will tell how the problem will truly play out in the future. This new research fits squarely into a continuum of information regarding the dangers of our expanding waistlines. The only question that remains is what, collectively, we will do about the problem.

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