KEEPING NZ KIDS HEALTHY AND ACTIVE - concerns over growing obesity epidemic

NZ study warns obese children are at high risk of heart, liver disease and diabetes
Last updated 13:49, September 19 2016

Three quarters of obese Kiwi children could be at risk of developing long-term heart disease unless they can lose weight, research has found.

The study offered a snapshot into the health of 200 obese children and teens from Taranaki.

It was described as the first research of its kind to show the prevalence of risk factors in obese New Zealand children.

Paediatrician and co-author of the study Yvonne Anderson, of the University of Auckland, said some of the children facing long-term health risks were as young as five-years-old.

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She said it was "concerning" that the dangers were apparent from such a young age.

And she said that if they didn't get healthy, it could impact their life expectancy.

"These children are not just carrying a bit of extra weight - they also have health indicators that can be life-limiting if left unaddressed," she said.

The researchers found 75 per cent of the children had increased risk of heart disease, while 40 per cent showed physical signs of high risk for type 2 diabetes, 47 per cent had at least one abnormal liver function test and 11 per cent had abnormal blood pressure.

Half of the children snored four or more nights a week, and breathing pauses during sleep had been witnessed in 20 per cent – both suggestive of obstructive sleep apnoea.

Maori and Pakeha children were similar in terms of risk for weight-related illness, though Maori and children from deprived areas were over-represented in child obesity statistics.

The majority of the 200 participants were of either Maori (45 per cent) or NZ European (45 per cent) descent and 29 per cent of participants were from the most deprived quintile of household deprivation.

New Zealand has one of the world's highest rates of childhood obesity with an estimated 85,000 children aged 2-14 classified as obese, the researchers said..

Anderson's research found that in Taranaki there were 4500 obese children aged between 2 and 14-years-old.

In 2015 Ministry of Health figures listed Taranaki as having the second worst childhood obesity region in the country, with 19.4 per cent of children obese, just behind East Coast, on 21.2 per cent.

"Obesity is everyone's problem and we all need to be part of the solution," Anderson said.

"If we are going to make a difference to those most affected by obesity, services that they feel comfortable with, and that fit in with their lives, are key."

The study was published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.

- Stuff

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