Severe obesity in teens tied to possible kidney problems

By Robert Preidt

Nearly one-fifth of severely obese teens have poor kidney function, a small new study suggests.

The study included 242 severely obese teens taking part in research on weight-loss surgery.

Seventeen percent of the teens had protein in their urine, which is an early sign of kidney damage. In addition, 7 percent had indications that their kidneys were working too hard, and 3 percent showed evidence of progressive loss of kidney function, the findings revealed.

Girls were more likely than boys to have protein in their urine, while those with the highest body mass index scores (BMI) — an estimate of body fat based on height and weight — and those with reduced insulin sensitivity were more likely to show signs of progressive loss of kidney function.

The study, presented earlier this year at a National Kidney Foundation meeting in Las Vegas, is believed to be the first to examine kidney function in a large group of severely obese teens.

“We plan to continue following them up after [weight-loss] surgery procedures. It will be very important to see whether their kidney function improves after surgical weight loss,” study author Dr. Nianzhou Xiao, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said in a Foundation news release.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“Severe obesity is increasing and now affects 4 percent to 6 percent of U.S. children and adolescents,” Dr. Beth Piraino, president of the National Kidney Foundation, said in the news release. “If untreated, obesity during adolescence is associated with a higher prevalence of chronic kidney disease and other serious conditions in adulthood, making obesity a huge public health burden,” she added.

“This study indicates that kidney dysfunction is present in childhood obesity along with such complications as high blood pressure or diabetes. Lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity and healthy eating are critical to improving the overall health of the American population and need to start with our youth,” Piraino noted.

Although the study found a connection between severe obesity and signs of kidney problems in teens, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

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