Obese Children Rate Their Life Equal To Cancer


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CTV, Tuesday, April 08, 2003 

Associated Press

CHICAGO -Obese children rate their quality of life with scores as low as those ofyoung cancer patients on chemotherapy, a study has found, highlighting thephysical and emotional toll of being too fat.

Teasingat school, difficulties playing sports, fatigue, sleep apnea and otherobesity-linked problems all severely affect obese youngsters' well-being,the study found.

While theresearchers didn't expect to find the youngsters to be entirely happy, thedismal scores were far lower than anticipated, said lead author Dr.Jeffrey Schwimmer, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the University ofCalifornia in San Diego.

"Themagnitude ... is striking," Schwimmer said. "The likelihood of significantquality-of-life impairment was profound for obese children."

The studyappears in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, anedition devoted to obesity studies.

It comesamid doctors' growing concern about the nation's obesity epidemic andrecent data suggesting 15 per cent of U.S. youngsters are severelyoverweight or obese.

A JAMAeditorial notes that Schwimmer's study found that severely obeseyoungsters and adolescents seeking obesity treatment have more than afivefold increased risk of reporting low quality of life than healthyyoungsters.

"It seemsclear that one of the most compelling medical challenges of the 21stcentury is to develop effective strategies to prevent and treat pediatricobesity," Drs. Jack and Susan Yanovski of the National Institutes ofHealth said in the editorial.

Schwimmer's study involved 106 children aged five to 18 who filled out aquestionnaire last year used by pediatricians to evaluate quality of lifeissues. Parents answered the same questionnaires, and their ratings oftheir children's well-being were even lower than the youngsters'self-ratings.

On the100-point questionnaire, obese youngsters scored an average of 67 points-- 16 points lower than in a group of 400 mostly normal weight healthyyoungsters. The obese children's scores were similar to quality of lifeself-ratings from a previously published study of about 100 pediatriccancer patients.

Youngsters were asked to rate things like their ability to walk more thanone block, play sports, sleep well, get along with others and keep up inschool.

Girls andboys appeared to be equally adversely affected by obesity.

Youngsters were aged 12 on average, with an average height of five feetone inch and average weight of 174 pounds. All had a body-mass index thatwould be considered obese.

Obesity-related ailments were common and included fatty liver disease,obstructive sleep apnea, diabetes and orthopedic problems caused by excessweight.

"Even inthe absence of these physical conditions, children and parents reported alow quality of life," Schwimmer said.

Dr. NancyKrebs, head of the American Academy of Pediatrics' nutrition committee,said the results aren't surprising given what is known about self-esteemand health problems in obese youngsters.

On theother hand, Krebs said, "It is almost becoming the norm," which may be de-stigamatizingobesity and making it easier for affected children to cope.

Still,the prevalence only underscores the need to treat it, she said.

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