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Children's obesity study shows early risk

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 18/09/2016

Obese New Zealand children are showing signs from a young age that they are at risk of developing serious weight-related problems, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart, and liver disease, a study says.

It is the first study to show the prevalence of these risk factors in obese New Zealand children, its authors say.

Published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, it looked at the health and well-being of more than 200 obese children aged between four and 16 taking part in the Whanau Pakari programme in Taranaki over 12 months.

Researchers found:

* 75 per cent had signs of inflammation, increasing long-term heart disease risk

* 40 per cent had physical signs of high risk for Type 2 diabetes

* 47 per cent had at least one abnormal liver function test

* 11 per cent had abnormal blood pressure

* 50 per cent snored four or more nights a week - suggestive of obstructive sleep apnoea.

"We knew these findings were likely to be present in these children given previous studies in other countries," said Yvonne Anderson, a paediatrician 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 unaddressed," says Dr Anderson.

Nationally, an estimated 85,000 children aged 2-14 years are obese, according to the New Zealand Health Survey.

The Whanau Pakari programme aimed to combat obesity by one-to-one family support, group sessions, physical fitness checks and fun weekly activity sessions.

Whanau also received advice and support from a dietitian, psychologist, physical activity advisor, and a healthy lifestyles co-ordinator as well as doctors.

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