When an overweight boy thinks about losing weight, he imagines being able to play sports and hang out with the “cool kids.” Maybe he could even have a girlfriend. When parents think about teen weight loss, they picture how much better their boy will look and feel with a slim body.
But when doctors think about teen weight loss, they know that the issue is more serious than becoming a sports star, having a girlfriend, or looking better. Medical journals keep filling up with more scientific studies proving that overweight teenagers are at risk for serious health problems never before seen in so many young people.
Here are the eleven medical reasons to help your son lose weight:
1. According to a study from the University of Minnesota, female hormones protect girls from heart disease even in the teen years. During adolescence, boys have higher blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol levels than girls, putting them at an increased risk for heart disease. One study from the University of Georgia found that overweight boys have higher increases in blood pressure when under stress and need more time to recover, compared to overweight girls.
2. Obese children as young as 7 are developing signs of heart disease that usually do not show up until people are over 45, 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 put that person at a higher risk of heart disease in adulthood.
3. 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.
4. Overweight teens are more likely to suffer bone fractures and have joint and muscle pains compared to normal-weight children, according to a 2006 study from the National Institutes of Health.
5. Doctors are seeing more cases of gynecomastia, or overdeveloped breasts in young boys. Gynecomastia is triggered by obesity, and can be cured by losing weight. However, plastic surgeons are now performing an increasing number of breast removal operations on boys.
6. So many children are overweight and at risk for heart disease that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that doctors 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.
7. Obese male drivers are much more likely to die in automobile crashes than normal-weight men, according to a study from the University of Wisconsin that was published in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers speculated that male obesity may produce certain “injury patterns” that are more likely to be fatal.
8. 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.
9. Overweight teenagers have twice the chance of being bullied and becoming bullies themselves, according to a Canadian study published in Pediatrics. They are left out of social activities twice as often as normal weight teens.
10. 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 number of friends as normal-weight teens did, they were listed fewer times on other teens’ lists.
11. If a boy is overweight in kindergarten, he 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.