New Study Shows Obese Teens May Face Mid-Life Kidney Crisis

According to a new study, if your teen is overweight or obese, their wellness isn’t only at risk now, but also at a higher risk of kidney failure by midlife, which could lead to a need for dialysis or even a kidney transplant. Kidney disease is a long-recognised wellbeing consequence of obesity.


For the study, researchers followed over 1.2 million Israeli 17-year-olds who were given thorough medical exams before they started mandatory stints in that country’s military service. After 25 years, the overweight and obese adolescents were 3-7 times more likely to be on dialysis for end-stage kidney disease compared to normal-weight teenagers. The healthy teenagers accounted for 2.32 cases of end-stage kidney disease diagnosed among 100,000 people followed for a year, the overweight teens accounted for 6.08 cases and the obese teenagers accounted for 13.4 cases.


Prior to this research, doctors have believed that the link between obesity and kidney failure is indirect, as obesity also raises the risk of both diabetes and high blood pressure, and these are two conditions known to damage the kidneys. However, when the team evaluated non-diabetic people who had end-stage kidney disease, the body weight associations remained the same, and this suggests that having too much body fat may be a more direct danger to the kidneys than previously thought.


However, as the researchers only measured blood pressure once, at the start of the study, they weren’t able to account for cases of high blood pressure that developed later in life. Experts think that high blood pressure may ultimately provide the explanation for the higher risks, and Kirsten L. Johansen, MD, a nephrologist at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Centre says ‘It’s quite possible that the obese people were slightly more hypertensive and that does contribute, for sure, to the development and progression of kidney diseases’. Yet, Johansen urges that this is just ‘one more reason why we really need to be concerned about overweight and obesity in kids’.


Halima Janjua, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, in Ohio adds ‘We should not underestimate how much harm obesity can cause in our children and young adults. That is definitely something that this paper conveys’. Neither Janjua nor Johansen were involved in the research.

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