According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity rates have more than quadrupled over the past 30 years, and the condition has shown both immediate and long-term effects on the health and well-being of those children affected. In fact, research shows that severe obesity in teens can damage kidneys.
In a new study believed to be the first to evaluate kidney function in a large group of teens, 242 severely obese teens took part in research regarding weight loss surgery. Of those children, 17 percent showed early signs of kidney damage which was marked by evidence of protein in the urine, a condition known as albuminuria. The findings also revealed that seven percent of the teenagers showed signs that their kidneys were working too hard and another three percent showed indication is that they had progressive loss of kidney function.
When kidneys are healthy, they are able to filter this protein but damaged kidneys cannot. To determine the extent of kidney damage, researchers used a test called glomerular filtration rate (GFR) which helps them estimate the rate at which the kidneys are able to filter fluids. GFR readings of 90 or higher indicate normal kidney function; however, and GFR readings that measured below 90 indicated the teen had a progressive loss of kidney function. In addition, GFR readings that were excessively high proved that the kidneys were working too hard, which is referred to as hyperfiltration. When hyperfiltration occurs over a long period of time, it will lead to protein in the urine and loss of kidney function.
Obesity in teens can damage kidneys and study results further showed that girls were more likely than boys to have problems with protein being present in their urine. In addition teens with the highest body mass index (BMI) scores, which is an overall estimate of the child’s body fat based on their weight and height and those who demonstrated insulin sensitivity were more likely to have signs of progressive kidney function loss.
Severe obesity in teens is continuing to rise and now according to the National Kidney Foundation affects approximately 4 to 6 percent of children and adolescents across the United States. If the condition is left untreated, obesity during teenage years can lead to chronic kidney disease and other serious health conditions as these children move into adulthood, which will make it obesity a serious public health concern.
This study proves that kidney function is affected in teens who are obese. It also proves that obesity causes other health problems for these children such as diabetes and high blood pressure. In order to combat this problem, Dr. Beth Piraino, president of the National Kidney Foundation says lifestyle changes must take place, such as increased levels of physical activity and healthy eating. She said these things are critical if American teens are to improve their overall health.
While the study was able to determine that obesity in teens can in fact does cause kidney damage, it could not establish a relationship between cause and effect. Researchers say they intend to follow-up with the teens after weight loss surgical procedures in order to determine if their kidney function improves after having the operation.
By Donna W. Martin