When an overweight girl thinks about losing weight, she dreams of wearing stylish clothing and becoming accepted by the “cool kids.” Maybe the boy of her dreams will ask her to prom. When parents think about teen weight loss, they picture how much better their daughter will look and feel with a slim body.
When doctors think about teen weight loss, they know that the issue is more serious than wearing pretty clothes or having a boyfriend. They have been reading medical journals full of scientific studies that show overweight teenagers are at risk for serious health problems never before seen in so many young people.
Here are the 13 medical reasons to help your daughter lose weight:
1. Overweight girls go through puberty earlier and are eight times more likely to be overweight as women, according to a study from Tufts University School of Medicine published in Pediatrics.
2. Girls who are overweight at age 18 are at high risk for dying young. In a study of over 102,000 female nurses, those who were overweight at 18 drank and smoked more and exercised less than their slimmer counterparts. Those who were overweight at age 18 were 50 percent more likely to die – and those who were obese at 18 were more than twice as likely to die – between the ages of 36 and 56, as compared to normal-weight girls. This study appears in the Annals of Internal Medicine .
3. Overweight or obese girls become more depressed and enjoy fewer years of good health than overweight or obese males, according to a study of 84,375 adults by Columbia University. Overweight women had a 6.6 times higher risk of disease than their male counterparts.
4. Obese girls are only half as likely to go to college as girls who are normal weight, according to a study from the University of Texas. This did not hold true for boys. Dr. Robert Crosnoe studied over 11,000 students and concluded that, “Overweight kids are just unhappy at school and it does things to them in the present that has long-term consequences.”
5. The number of diabetic teens who get pregnant has increased 500 percent in the past 10 years, according to a study in Diabetic Care. The researchers noted that because so many girls are overweight or obese, they are developing Type 2 diabetes, which can cause severe complications in pregnancy.
6. Overweight teenagers have twice the chance of being bullied, according to a Canadian study in Pediatrics, and are left out of social activities twice as often. Obese girls are twice as likely to be bullied physically on a weekly basis, and five times more likely to become bullies themselves.
7. A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that overweight teenagers were likely to be socially isolated and have fewer friends. Researchers from the University of Michigan studied more than 90,000 teenagers and found that although overweight teens listed the same numbers of friends as normal weight teens did, they were listed fewer times on other teens’ lists.
8. Obese children as young as 7 are developing symptoms of heart disease that usually do not show up until middle age, according to a study from the University of Missouri. A study from the Institute of Preventive Medicine in Denmark of over 276,000 children found that even being a few pounds overweight as a child puts a person at a higher risk of heart disease in adulthood.
9. Overweight and obese children are more likely to have surgery and suffer more complications than normal-weight kids, according to a study from the University of Michigan. Many of the overweight children among the 6,000 in the study underwent surgeries that had to do with being overweight, such as operations for breathing problems and digestive issues. Their complications often had to do with being diabetic, another condition linked to obesity.
10. If a child is overweight in kindergarten, she will probably stay that way as an adult, according to a study from Harvard University published in the American Journal of Public Health. More than half of overweight children become overweight adults, which puts them at increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, cancer, and premature death.
11. Overweight teens are more likely to suffer bone fractures and have joint and muscle pains than normal-weight children, according to a 2006 study from the National Institutes of Health.
12. So many children are overweight and at risk for heart disease that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that pediatricians prescribe statins to children as young as 8. Statins lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, but no one knows the risks involved in taking them for 50 years or more, or giving them to children and teens who are still growing.
13. More than six million children now have fatty liver disease. This serious condition is linked to being overweight, and puts children at risk for cirrhosis and liver failure, and increases the need for liver transplants.