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Updated Guidelines on Childhood Obesity Express Need for Prevention

By Jessica Taylor via Multibriefs

Today, about 1 in 5 children between the ages of 6 and 19 has obesity. In fact, the percentage has tripled in the U.S. since the 1970s. These children not only suffer from depression, lower self-esteem and social isolation, but they're also at higher risk for having chronic health conditions such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, diabetes and heart disease.

Childhood obesity is considered to be the most common prevalent nutritional disorder of U.S. children — one that's most often seen by pediatricians. Because of the prevalence, the Endocrine Society recently released an updated Clinical Practice Guideline Program to help the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity, alongside lifestyle changes.

The new guidelines, titled "Pediatric Obesity — Assessment, Treatment, and Prevention: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline," were updated from the 2008 guidelines by pulling together new data of obesity including genetic causes, psychological tendencies, surgical procedures and medications.

Some recommendations in the guidelines include:

  • Children and adolescents with BMI in at least the 85th percentile (for age and gender) should be evaluated for obesity-related conditions such as diabetes and dyslipidemia.
  • Unless height and weight are less than expected, routine laboratory evaluations for endocrine disorders are not necessary.
  • Children being evaluated for obesity should not have their fasting values measured.
  • With early onset of obesity, family history or extreme hyperphagia, specific genetic testing is advised.
  • Bariatric surgery is only recommended in certain patients with advanced pubertal development and extreme obesity.

Though most recommendations regard testing and laboratory procedures, the society notes that the first option to helping patients with obesity is lifestyle modifications.

"Intensive, family-centered lifestyle modifications to encourage healthy diet and activity remain the central approach to preventing and treating obesity in children and teenagers," said Dennis M. Styne, MD, of the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, in a press release.

Childhood obesity is an national problem, affecting 17 percent of American children and teenagers. The Society states that the disease is associated with an estimated $14.1 billion in additional prescription drugs, emergency room and medical visits each year.

No matter what the circumstance of assessment or treatment, the most important aspect is prevention. And though the recent research on pediatric obesity has increased since the last guidelines, Styne states that "further study is needed of the genetic and biological factors that increase the risk of weight gain and influence the response to therapeutic interventions."

Jessica Taylor is the medical editor for MultiBriefs and has been a journalist and writer for more than 10 years. Jessica received her bachelor's degree in communications with a dual concentration in media studies and journalism from Virginia Wesleyan College. She’s been awarded first place in headline writing from the Virginia Press Association and an honorable mention for design and content from the Society of Collegiate Journalists.

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