JOURNAL ARTICLE

Childhood obesity: a review of increased risk for physical and psychological comorbidities

Elizabeth R Pulgarón
Clinical Therapeutics 2013, 35 (1): A18-32
23328273

BACKGROUND: Worldwide estimates of childhood overweight and obesity are as high as 43 million, and rates continue to increase each year. Researchers have taken interest in the childhood obesity epidemic and the impact of this condition across health domains. The consequences of childhood and adolescent obesity are extensive, including both medical and psychosocial comorbidities.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this review was to consolidate and highlight the recent literature on the comorbidities associated with childhood obesity, both nationally and internationally.

METHODS: PubMed and PsychINFO searches were conducted on childhood obesity and comorbidities.

RESULTS: The initial search of the terms obesity and comorbidity yielded >5000 published articles. Limits were set to include studies on children and adolescents that were published in peer-reviewed journals from 2002 to 2012. These limits narrowed the search to 938. Review of those articles resulted in 79 that are included in this review. The major medical comorbidities associated with childhood obesity in the current literature are metabolic risk factors, asthma, and dental health issues. Major psychological comorbidities include internalizing and externalizing disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and sleep problems.

CONCLUSIONS: The high prevalence rates of childhood obesity have resulted in extensive research in this area. Limitations to the current childhood obesity literature include differential definitions of weight status and cut-off levels for metabolic risk factors across studies. Additionally, some results are based on self-report of diagnoses rather than chart reviews or physician diagnosis. Even so, there is substantial support for metabolic risk factors, internalizing disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and decreased health-related quality of life as comorbidities to obesity in childhood. Additional investigations on other diseases and conditions that might be associated with childhood obesity are warranted and intervention research in this area is critical.

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