Gallstone Risk in Obese Children

Childhood obesity is growing at epidemic rates. Over one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Unfortunately, the result of this epidemic is the appearance of health conditions in children that were previously only found in adults, conditions such as metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol, and, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition, gallstones.

The study examined health records of over 510,000 children aged 10 to 19, and found that obese children were twice as likely to have gallstones compared to children with normal BMI (body mass index), the standard measure of obesity. “Although gallstones are relatively common in obese adults, gallstones in children and adolescents have been historically rare,” noted lead researcher Corinna Koebnick, “These findings add to an alarming trend—youth who are obese or extremely obese are more likely to have diseases we normally think of as adult conditions.”

Gallstones are relatively common, affecting about 20 million adults. The condition is characterized by symptoms of abdominal pain (especially after a fatty meal), nausea, or—in many cases—a lack of symptoms. “Since obesity is so common, pediatricians must learn to recognize the characteristic symptoms of gallstones,” stated George Longstreth, another author of the study. Girls and Hispanics were found to be most at risk of gallstones, but all obese children were still at risk.

It saddens me that children today are afflicted with adult diseases as a result of their obesity. It saddens me that children are growing obese. The quality of food widely available today saddens me.  And the social norm of eating this junk food—and lots of it—saddens me. If you have a child in your life, share a healthy snack with her. And be sure to eat healthy snacks yourself because we model behavior for our children. As we make healthy choices, so will they. Pass it on.

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