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27-08-2012 | Gastroenterology | Article

Obese adolescents have high incidence gallstones

Abstract

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medwireNews: The recent rise in childhood obesity has led to a dramatic increase in the number of older children and adolescents with gallstones, say researchers.

"Although gallstones are relatively common in obese adults, gallstones in children and adolescents have been historically rare," said study lead author Corinna Koebnick (Kaiser Permanente Southern California, Pasadena, USA) in a press statement.

"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."

Koebnick and team evaluated the incidence of gallstone disease in 510,816 children aged 10-19 years who were enrolled in an integrated Kaiser Permanente health plan between 2007 and 2009.

In total, 766 children had a diagnosis of gallstones. Using boys in the underweight/normal weight category (below 85th body mass index [BMI]-for-age percentile) as a reference, boys who were overweight (85th-95th BMI-for-age percentile), moderately obese (95th to 1.2x95th BMI-for-age percentile), and extremely obese (over 1.2x95th BMI-for-age percentile) had a significant 1.46-, 1.83-, and 3.10-fold increased risk for gallstones, respectively.

Similarly, girls who were overweight, moderately obese, and extremely obese had significant 2.73-, 5.75-, and 7.71-fold increased risks for gallstones compared with those in the underweight/normal weight category.

Of note, girls who used oral contraceptives were twice as likely to have gallstones as girls of a similar weight who did not.

"The high rate of gallstones in obese children and adolescents may surprise pediatricians because gallstone disease is generally regarded as an adult disorder. Since obesity is so common, pediatricians must learn to recognize the characteristic symptoms of gallstones," said co-author George Longstreth, also from Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

"With increasing numbers of cases of gallstones in children, we wanted to better understand the potential role of risk factors such as obesity, gender, ethnicity, and oral contraceptive use," added Koebnick.

"With childhood obesity on the rise, pediatricians can expect to diagnose and treat an increasing number of children affected by gallstone disease. It is important to identify other factors that increase risk as well."

medwireNews (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

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