August 26, 2012

Study: Gallstones On The Rise In Obese Teenagers

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

Gallstones, historically an adult problem, have been showing up in teenagers in an ever increasing rate, directly linked to obesity.

A new study, published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, has found that obese children are up to eight times more likely than those of a healthy weight to be diagnosed with gallstones. The gallstones, which can be excruciatingly painful, are only adding to a growing trend of children presenting with conditions only seen before in adults.

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente looked at the incidence of gallstones in over 500,000 California children from the ages of ten to nineteen; 766 of those children were diagnosed with gallstones. What they found is that the link is not only weight based, but gender based as well.

Extremely obese girls were eight times more likely than their healthy-weight female classmates to be diagnosed with gallstones were. Girls who were merely obese were six times as likely. Those who were just mildly overweight came in at three times the rate of healthy weight females.

Boys don't have it quite so hard. Extremely obese boys have triple the chance of their healthy weight counterparts, obese boys double the risk, and the mildly overweight males have a 50% higher risk.

Gallstones are small stones, usually made of cholesterol, that form in the gallbladder.

Often they do not cause any symptoms, but if one becomes trapped it can trigger intense abdominal pain.

They can block the passage of bile into the intestine, which in turn can cause severe damage or infection in the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas and, if left untreated, can be fatal.

"We know there is a link between the condition and obesity. But yet again we are seeing an adult illness in young people - because of obesity, said British National Obesity Forum chairman, David Haslam. "We have already seen Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Now it is gallstones. And because these conditions are coming earlier, deaths will come earlier."

Corinna Koebnick, lead author of the study, states, "We are also seeing more and more frequently among adolescents is diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. Hypertension [high blood pressure] is not just something that causes problems in the future; we are seeing children with hypertension who already have organ damage, such as heart conditions usually seen in 40-year-olds."

The study suggests that pediatricians should be trained to look for gallstones, since obesity rates in children are rising.