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Danger ahead

Cynthia E. Griffin- | 3/24/2010, 5 p.m.

Kaiser Permanente has published a study in the "Journal of Pediatrics" which found that 12 percent of African American teen girls and 11.2 percent of Hispanic boys are extremely obese. The study of 7,109,949 youth ages 2-19 years old also found that, in general, 7.3 percent of boys and 5.5 percent of girls are considered extremely obese. The study is the first to provide a snapshot of the prevalence of extreme obesity in a contemporary group of youth that is also ethnically and racially diverse. The data used comes from Kaiser's Southern California integrated health plan of 2007 and 2008.
According to lead study author Corinna Koebnick, a research scientist with Kaiser's Department of Research and Evaluation in Pasadena, the youngsters face a 10- to 20-year shorter life span because of the extra weight, and will develop health problems in their 20s that are typically seen in people ages 40-60. These include Type II diabetes, fatty liver, joint problems, and a greater risk of heart disease. The Kaiser study coincides with an announcement last month by President Barack Obama about the formation of a Task Force on Childhood Obesity.
"Across our country, childhood obesity has reached epidemic rates and, as a result, our children may live shorter lives than their parents," said the president during the Feb. 9 press conferences to introduce the task force. The chief executive went on to note that nearly one-third of American children are overweight or obese, and that one-third of all individuals born in the year 2000 or later will evetually suffer from diabetes over the course of their lifetimes.
The president's task force is part of a national public awareness campaign being led by First Lady Michelle Obama, and it will focus on developing a strategy to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation. The Kaiser study is also the first in an ongoing effort to identify the health problems that are linked to the extreme obesity of teens as well as ways to combat the problem.