Aging With Obesity Is a Lifelong Struggle

FEBRUARY 20, 2014
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP

Since obesity increases inflammation and changes metabolism, it has been strongly linked to many lifelong medical conditions.

To date, researchers have associated childhood obesity with an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome (MetS), cardiovascular disease (CVD), and type 2 diabetes — all of which have components of altered glucose metabolism and hyperinsulinemia with reduced insulin sensitivity. To top it off, childhood obesity has also been tied to increased rates of cancer.

The January 2014 issue of Gerontology includes a review summarizing the available evidence that indicates childhood obesity can predict obesity-related disorders in adulthood.

Beginning with the acute consequences of childhood obesity, the authors discussed non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), infertility, asthma, orthopedic complications, and psychiatric disease. Although many of those conditions initially present in adolescence, they tend to become chronic conditions.

The authors covered contributors to childhood obesity and discussed the influence of gender on the way fat develops and gets stored. Additionally, several sections of their review present conclusive evidence that obese children are at a high risk for early-onset diabetes and CVD.

One particularly thought-provoking section discusses the relationship between a high body mass index (BMI) and certain types of cancer in adults, including breast, ovarian, and colon cancers. Although little is known about the impact childhood obesity has on cancer later in life, obese girls tend to enter puberty earlier, and early pubertal development has been associated with an increase in hormonally influenced cancers in adulthood. Obesity in prepubescent girls also increases the risk for breast cancer after menopause, even after controlling for adult BMI.

In light of the high rates of obesity and the condition’s related complications, the authors concluded, “nearly all children need to be considered at risk for later adult obesity, and targeted early with preventive efforts.”

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