“It’s one thing for an overweight or obese 55-year-old gaining an extra few pounds a year to develop diabetes at age 65 and then have a heart attack. It’s a very different thing if the clock starts ticking at age 10,” Ludwig says. “Children have so many more years to suffer from the consequences from these serious medical problems related to obesity.
Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, is a condition that until recently doctors almost never saw in kids. But that was before the childhood obesity epidemic.
“We’re looking at the prospect of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure becoming common complications of young adulthood,” Ludwig says.
The new study also found disturbingly high levels of other problems that increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes in kids, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Researchers are especially concerning about the high rate of diabetes among teenage girls.
“These are teen girls — adolescent girls — who are going to become mothers in the next five to 10 years. And if their weight is not healthy, we’re going to have another generation of these children with metabolic problems that lead to diabetes and prediabetes,” says Melinda S. Sothern of Louisiana State University.