Overweight and obese children are at significantly increased risk for gallstones, according to a large new study.
Researchers analysed the health records of more than 510 000 children in California, aged 10 to 19, and found that those who were overweight were twice as likely to have gallstones as those with normal weight.
What the study found
The risk was four times higher in moderately obese children and six times higher in extremely obese children.
The link between obesity and gallstones was stronger in girls than in boys. Obese and extremely obese girls were six and eight times more likely, respectively, to have gallstones than underweight or normal-weight girls. Obese and extremely obese boys were more than two and three times more likely, respectively, to have gallstones than underweight or normal-weight boys.
The researchers also found that Hispanic children were more likely to have gallstones than youth in other racial and ethnic groups. The study appeared in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.
Role of obesity in gallstones
"Although gallstones are relatively common in obese adults, gallstones in children and adolescents have been historically rare," study lead author Corinna Koebnick, of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation, said in a Kaiser news release. "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."
"With increasing 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," Koebnick said. "With childhood obesity on the rise, paediatricians 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."
Gallstones affect about 20 million adults in the United States, according to the news release.
Although the study found an association between child obesity and gallstones, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Symptoms of gallstones
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about gallstones.
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