Heart Association Highlights Risks of Severe Obesity in Children

The American Heart Association (AHA) has released a scientific statement on severe obesity in children and adolescents highlighting the health risks, challenges, and limitations of treatment for this issue.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has released a scientific statement on severe obesity in children and adolescents highlighting the health risks, challenges, and limitations of treatment for this issue.

The statement defines severe obesity as a body mass index (BMI) of at least 120 percent of the 95th percentile, or an absolute BMI of 35 kg/m2 — whichever measure is lower based on age and sex. The AHA notes that severe obesity in children and adolescents is on the rise, affecting approximately 5 percent of US children and teens.

According to lead author Aaron Kelly, PhD, from the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, severe obesity in youth is a much more serious problem than obesity, as interventions like pharmaceuticals and bariatric surgery are limited in applicability and availability within this age group. More innovative approaches to fill the gap between lifestyle/medication and surgery are urgently needed, though innovative behavior-based treatment, minimally-invasive procedures, and investigational medications still need to be evaluated for efficacy and safety in young people.

“More work needs to be done to better understand the pathogenesis and distinct pathophysiology that underlies this condition and the psychosocial/behavioral dynamics that allow it to be perpetuated,” the statement authors conclude.

Watch Gerard Martin, MD, FACC, discuss the issue of childhood obesity in this video clip from the AHA.