Underweight Kids at Greater Risk of Health Problems than Obese Children

By Renee Anderson, Parent Herald May 13, 08:38 am

Until date, childhood obesity is considered to be one of the most severe conditions, posing many health risks to the young generation. However, according to a team of U.K. researchers, being underweight during childhood is equally risky as being overweight.

Ayodele Ogunleye and Gavin Sandercock of the University of Essex, on the other hand, found that the risks posed by being underweight were often overlooked, and malnutrition posed more health problems to children, including bone diseases and cardiovascular risks than the risks brought in by being overweight, The Independent reported.

To reach a conclusion, the researchers analyzed nearly 10,000 children aged between 9 and 16 in England. Prevalence of being underweight among the participants was determined by using guidelines released by the International Obesity Taskforce.

Underweight problems affected Asian children (one in 11) more than whites (one in 17), and girls more than boys in all races and ethnicities, except the Blacks.

"The main risk associated with being underweight is an increased change of osteoporosis, a disease of bones that leads to an increased risk of fractures," Ogunleye told The Independent. "They are much more likely to have osteoporosis and much lower bone density. Underweight people are likely to be less fit and active, which would also increase their cardiovascular risk. Immune systems, designed to fight diseases and protect the body, are also much weaker in underweight people, which could at the very least lead to them having more illnesses like flu."

Apart from that, according to experts from UNICEF, malnutrition can affect the children's ability to learn and perform at school, and increases the risks of many diseases and early death.

Many factors, including unhealthy and poor eating habits, high food prices and concerns about gaining unnecessary weight may play an important role in leading to this occurrence, Ogunleye added to the newspaper. Researchers also noticed that many health practitioners don't know how to detect being underweight among children.

Findings of the study will be presented Monday, May 13, at the European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), about 3.5 percent of American children and teens aged between 2 and 19 were underweight between 2007 and 2010.

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