Aim: The prevalence of overweight and obesity in children is a public health problem because of future morbidity. However, the prevalence of medical complications in overweight and obese primary school children in Australia is not well documented. As part of the larger, prospective cohort Growth and Development Study, this report aimed to identify the medical complications of obesity in a population-based community sample of primary school-aged children.
Methods: Two groups of primary school children were studied: a random community sample of overweight/obese children (not seeking treatment) and a matched community sample of normal weight children. Demographics, medical history, family history and symptoms of complications of overweight were collected. Children had a physical examination, oral glucose tolerance tests with insulins, fasting lipid profiles and liver function tests.
Results: Data from 283 children are presented (6.1–13.4 years, mean 9.8 years). There were no differences in birth data, family composition, parental age or socio-economic status between groups. Overweight and obese children were more likely to complain of musculoskeletal pain, depression, anxiety and bullying, and had more adverse examination findings than control children. They also had more abnormal investigations: overweight children: impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) 1.3%, hyperinsulinism 19.5%, dyslipidaemia 63.8%, raised alanine transaminase (ALT) 9.0%; obese children: IGT 5.3%, hyperinsulinism 38.9%, dyslipidaemia 73.7%, raised ALT 31.6%.
Conclusion: Overweight and obese primary school-aged children have significant medical complications of their weight status. Overweight children, in addition to obese children, should be screened for complications. A secondary finding is a high proportion of normal weight children with lipid levels outside desirable healthy ranges.