Adolescence and Co-morbidities

Childhood obesity has two types of consequences: the slowly building kind that don’t become really obtrusive until decades later, and the immediate kind. When there is an early-onset consequence, a young person with already two strikes against him or her (obesity and adolescence) develops an abnormal condition in some organ or system. But difficult as it is, adolescence is not yet classified as a pathology.

A lot of teenagers are afflicted by obesity and something else. When two things go wrong, they are now co-morbidities. There may be discussion over whether A caused B, or B caused A, or maybe another factor, yet to be discovered, caused both of them. In any case, the frequency of association is indisputable. The amount of research that has already been done is paltry, compared to the amount that cries out to be done.

Gut feelings

An obvious location for a malady related to eating is the gastrointestinal tract. A press release from Baylor College says, “GERD is Now a Common Childhood Ailment in American Overweight Youth.” It refers to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, where stomach acid (and sometimes partly digested food) comes back up, a phenomenon referred to in pop culture as “I just threw up a little in my mouth.”

This may sound rather harmless, but don’t be fooled. According to the press release:

Persistent acid reflux can eventually lead to esophageal scarring later in life. Symptoms include heartburn, chest pain, bad breath and hoarseness.

GERD didn’t used to be seen much in kids, but now it appears with annoying frequency, often in tandem with overweight or obesity.

Seemingly, nothing is safe, not the heart or the bones, not even the brain. The liver is sometimes the hot spot, because of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. According to the School of Medicine at UC San Diego:

NAFLD — the inappropriate storage of fat droplets inside liver cells — is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the United States and affects nearly 10 percent of all children…

The disease is most common in children and teenagers who are overweight and can develop in conjunction with other health problems, such as diabetes.

Please note that the report does not say “nearly 10 percent of overweight children.” It says “nearly 10 percent of all children.” That in itself is alarming. Kids who have it, often don’t show symptoms, but fatigue and abdominal pain are danger signs. Aside from very likely being overweight, kids with NAFLD tend to have high blood pressure, which of course is also linked with overweight and obesity.

Oh, and one more thing:

Currently, there are no approved and effective treatments for children with NAFLD.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “GERD is Now a Common Childhood Ailment in American Overweight Youth,”, 03/15/13
Source: “Obese Children Burdened by More than Weight,”, 11/19/14
Photo credit: cunaplus/123RF Stock Photo

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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