Childhood Obesity Kills Native Americans

Despite the wide-spread concern about the health impact of the childhood obesity epidemic, there is actually not much data that directly shows how this excess weight may affect mortality.

Such data is now available at least for native American kids, from a study by Paul Franks (National Institutes of Health, Phoenix, AZ) and colleagues, just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers analysed data from a cohort of 4857 American Indian (Pima or Tohono O’odham Indian) children without diabetes (mean age, 11.3 years) born between 1945 and 1984.

During a median follow-up period of around 24 years, death rates from endogenous causes among children in the highest quartile of BMI were more than double those among children in the lowest BMI quartile.

Similarly, rates of death from endogenous causes among children in the highest quartile of glucose intolerance were 73% higher than those among children in the lowest quartile and childhood hypertension was significantly associated with a 60% increased risk of premature death from endogenous causes.

Thus, at least in native Americans, childhood obesity is a significant risk factor for premature death – certainly a warning for those who believe that early obesity is something you can simply grow out of.

Given the raging epidemic of childhood obesity amongst the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis populations in Canada, these data should certainly prompt decisive action to address obesity amongst its native peoples.

Edmonton, Alberta