Fat children up to six times more likely to develop gallstones, researchers warnOverweight girls most at risk, according to a U.S. studyThe condition is generally regarded as an adult diseaseUsing oral contraceptives was also a risk factor
11:03 GMT, 25 August 2012
Children who are overweight or obese are up to six times more at risk of developing gallstones, warn researchers.
They found that fat girls are at the highest risk from the condition.
Gallstones join other supposedly adult disorders now affecting youngsters, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Children who are overweight or obese are up to six times more at risk of developing gallstones, warn researchers
The study found children and adolescents who were overweight were twice as likely to have gallstone disease.
Those who were moderately obese were four times as likely to have gallstones and those who were extremely obese were six times as likely to have gallstones.
The study was based on information in the electronic health records of more than 510,000 children ages 10 to 19, from 2007 to 2009, who were members of the health insurance plan Kaiser Permanente Southern California.
Researchers found a stronger association between obesity and gallstones in girls than in boys.
Girls who were obese and extremely obese were six and eight times more likely to have gallstones than girls who were underweight or of normal weight.
Girls who were obese and extremely obese were six and eight times more likely to have gallstones than girls who were underweight or of normal weight, the study found
Obese and severely obese boys were more than twice and three times as likely to have gallstones than normal or underweight peers, says the study published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition (must credit).
Using oral contraceptives was also a risk factor for gallstones.
Lead author Corinna Koebnick of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation, said ‘Although gallstones are relatively common in obese adults, gallstones in children and adolescents have been historically rare.
‘These findings add to an alarming trend-youth who are obese or extremely obese are more likely to have diseases we normally think of as adult conditions.
‘It is a concern, prevalence of diabetes is increasing and cardiovascular risk factors.
‘This emphasises that obesity, especially extreme obesity, is not a benign condition, it’s got to be taken seriously.’
Gallstones may cause symptoms such as recurrent abdominal pain and nausea, although many people with gallstones have no symptoms.
Gallstones 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, the condition can be fatal.
Obesity is a major risk factor for gallstones in adults.
Dr Koebnick said the study identified 766 children who had gallstones because they were treated, probably with surgery to remove the gallbladder.
She said there had been reports of clinics in the US performing more gallbladder surgery on children, with operations at one clinic in Texas going up from two to 100 a year over 40 years.
She said ‘We just don’t know what the health implications are because previously gallstones in children were the result of gallbladder disease.
‘It’s still an uncommon condition in children’ she added. ‘But now we have to think that being fat is the key cause of gallstones in youngsters.’
George Longstreth, senior study author and a gastroenterologist from Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center, said ‘The high rate of gallstones in obese children and adolescents may surprise paediatricians because gallstone disease is generally regarded as an adult disorder.
‘Since obesity is so common, paediatricians must learn to recognize the characteristic symptoms of gallstones.’