Objectives: Obesity in childhood is associated with the presence of risk factors for later disease and with the early development of these diseases. This paper aims to estimate the numbers of children with obesity-related disease risk factors and co-morbidities in the European Union (EU).
Methods: A search of the scientific literature identified prevalence rates relating variously to impaired glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinaemia, type 2 diabetes, several cardiovascular risk factors, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and the metabolic disease syndrome among obese children. Using the lowest likely prevalence rates for each disease indicator, estimates were made of the expected numbers of obese children within the EU likely to be showing the specified indicator.
Results: On the most conservative estimate, over 20 000 obese children in the EU have type 2 diabetes, while over 400 000 have impaired glucose tolerance. Over a million obese children are likely to show a range of indicators for cardiovascular disease, including hypertension and raised blood cholesterol levels, and have three or more indicators of the metabolic syndrome. Over 1.4 million may have early stages of liver disorder.
Conclusions: Although there will be considerable overlap in the numbers of obese children with the various risk factors described, the estimated burden of disease indicators among obese children is high. Paediatric services need to consider their ability to screen and treat children if we are to avoid a substantial rise in chronic obesity-related disease among young adults over the next decade.