Wasted Youth

Lasting Harms from Obesity in Youth

If you want a reason to pay attention to severe obesity in youth, look no further than the study just published in JACC Clinical Electrophysiology. Researchers led by Stephanie Chiuve found that the risk of sudden cardiac death is doubled for women who have a BMI above 30 when they are 18 and this risk remains elevated throughout their lives.

Contrasting responses to this study provide food for thought.

“These study results are alarming and really mean that weight loss and physical fitness need to emphasized,” is the response of Mitchell Rosln, chief of obesity surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

He’s absolutely right, but we’re not sure he gets to the heart of the matter. Loss of excess weight and physical fitness are already accepted to be good ideas. David Wilber, the journal’s editor in chief, offers a bit more of the sense of urgency that’s needed:

This study adds to a growing body of evidence that the adverse effects of obesity on cardiac rhythm, in this case, sudden death risk, begin in early adulthood. It underscores the need for earlier identification and treatment of high-risk individuals.

In other words, it’s time to stop pontificating about fitness and weight and start offering better care for adolescents and young adults with severe obesity. Right now, we mostly offer them and their families platitudes about weight loss and fitness. But when it comes to actual evidence-based care that will make a lasting difference, health plans do the opposite of what’s needed. They throw up barriers that delay these young people from getting urgently need needed care.

One recent study documented delays lasting months and years for adolescents with well-documented medical needs for bariatric surgery.

This state of affairs — given the risks to life involved — is unconscionable.

Click here to read the study in JACC Clinical Electrophysiology and here to read more from HealthDay.

Wasted Youth, photograph © Marta Nørgaard / flickr

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December 2, 2015

2 Responses to “Lasting Harms from Obesity in Youth”

  1. December 02, 2015 at 8:35 am, Allen Browne said:

    We also need more tools to treat obesity in children. It cannot be a two step process – diet, activity, and behavior(DAB) or bariatric surgery. We need tools to fill the gap between these steps – such as weight loss medications, weight loss devices, and combinations. And the children and their families need financial support to obtain treatment of for this chronic disease rather than barriers to treatment.

    • December 02, 2015 at 9:55 am, Ted said:

      Absolutely right, and we need large studies to provide evidence for the best clinical outcomes. A lot of work remains to be done, but for young people living with this disease, we’ve got to quit throwing barriers in the way of getting the care they need.