Obese children in New Zealand are showing signs from a young age that they are at risk of developing obesity-related problems such as diabetes, heart and liver disease, says a new study.
The authors of the study claim that this is the first study to show the prevalence of these risk factors in obese New Zealand children.
‘About 75% of the obese children in New Zealand had signs of inflammation, and 40% showed signs of type 2 diabetes.’
The study looked at the health and well-being of more than 200 obese children aged between four and 16 who took part in the Whanau Pakari program in Taranaki over 12 months.
The researchers found that 75% had signs of inflammation, increasing long-term heart disease risk, 40% had physical signs of high risk for type 2 diabetes, 47% had at least one abnormal liver function test, 11% had abnormal blood pressure and 50% snored four or more nights a week and suffered from sleep apnea.
"We knew these findings were likely to be present in these children given previous studies in other countries," said Yvonne Anderson, a pediatrician and co-author of the study.
"What was concerning was how common they were from a young age. These children are not just carrying a bit of extra weight - they also have health indicators that can be life-limiting if left un-addressed," says Dr Anderson.
According to the New Zealand Health Survey, an estimated 85,000 children aged 2-14 years are obese.
The Whanau Pakari program aimed to combat obesity by one-to-one family support, group sessions, physical fitness checks, and fun weekly activity sessions.
The program also included a dietitian, psychologists, physical activity advisor, healthy lifestyle coordinators and doctors for counseling and support.
The study is published in the Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health.