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'Severe Obesity' Fast-Growing in US Children

Sharon Dominick/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Despite the overall plateau in the prevalence of pediatric obesity, the prevalence of severe obesity now approximates 5 percent of all children. The American Heart Association released a scientific study published in the journal Circulation to define this growing group of children and teens at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Researchers in the study recommend defining severe obesity in youth as children over age 2 who have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 20 percent higher than 95 percent of other children of the same age and gender. Any child with a BMI of 35 or higher should also be considered as severely obese, they added.

Severely obese children are difficult to treat, according to the researchers. Lifestyle changes, which are commonly successful in treating overweight children, can be less than effective for young patients with severe obesity.

Due to the limited available treatments, the American Heart Association suggests innovative approaches and funding for further research to fill in the treatment gap between lifestyle changes, medication and surgery.

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