Study finds extreme obesity affects nearly 1 in 10 minority children

PASADENA — Extreme obesity is affecting more children at younger ages, according to a study released today that is the first to look at children using a new government definition of extreme obesity.

The Kaiser Permanente study of 710,949 children and teens ages 2-19 found that 7.3 percent of boys and 5.5 percent of girls were extremely obese. The results were worse for minority children, with 12 percent of black teenage girls and 11.2 percent of Latino teenage boys judged extremely obese.

The study was the first on the prevalence of extreme obesity in children between ages 2-19 years from a large racially and ethnically diverse population using the recent 2009 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extreme obesity definition, according to its author, Corinna Koebnick.

Previous research was based on clinical definitions of obesity, but did not look for extreme obesity, said Koebnick, a research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research and Evaluation in Pasadena.

"Children who are extremely obese may continue to be extremely obese as adults, and all the health problems associated with obesity are in these children's futures,'' Koebnick said.

"Without major lifestyle changes, these kids face a 10 to 20 years shorter life span and will develop health problems in their twenties that we typically see in 40- to 60-year-olds."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines extreme obesity as having a body mass index 1.2 times the 95th percentile of the body mass index.