NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 23, 2005

Overweight children seem to experience more broken bones, muscle and joint problems than their normal-weight peers, according to a study presented at a recent meeting of the Obesity Society in Vancouver, B.C.

Researchers studied 227 overweight children and adolescents and 128 who were not overweight. The participants had an average age of 12 and were enrolled in federal health studies between 1996 and 2004. Participants were considered overweight if they were in the 95th percentile of their age and weight bracket.

  • The researchers found that 13 percent of the overweight participants had broken at least one bone during their childhood, compared with less than 4 percent of ideal-weight children.
  • Results were similar for muscle, bone and joint problems.

"A lot of people think that if you're an overweight kid ... that later on in life you're going to run into having heart disease or type 2 diabetes," Susan Yanovski, director of the obesity and eating disorders program at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, said. She added, "But kids and adults who are overweight are already having problems with their mobility, fractures and joint pain."

Lead researcher Jack Yanovski, head of the growth and obesity program at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said, "The combination of musculoskeletal pain and poor mobility may possibly lead to less physical activity...and perpetuate the vicious cycle."

Junichi Tamai, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, said active children are less likely to develop bone problems because their bones likely are stronger.

Source: Marilynn Marchione (Associated Press), "Overweight Kids at Risk of Fractures, Study Shows," Washington Post, November 22, 2005.

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