News and World Report, a recent study in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research links childhood obesity
with joint pain, poor physical functioning, and mental health.
Researchers analyzed medical charts from 175 obese children, of which 51 reported lower extremity pain. These same children also scored lower on measures of physical function and psychosocial health than those who did not report such pain.
According to Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, "Our hips and knees bear five to seven times our body weight…The heavier the child, the bigger the pressure on the joints and cartilage, and that can be painful. It sets up their soft tissue for inflammation."
In order to effectively fight childhood obesity, early intervention is essential, according to a recent study cited in the Chicago Tribune. Researchers at the National Childhood Obesity Center in Stockholm, Sweden observed 643 children divided into three age groups: six to nine years, 10 to 13 years, and 14 to 16 years old. The children were also divided into groups of moderate and severe obesity. They found that over the three year study period, behavioral interventions such as learning healthy eating habits and increasing physical activity helped the youngest children to lose weight but had almost no effect on the oldest children.
The researchers note that "more and more evidence points to early childhood as a pivotal time for preventing in young children an obesity trajectory that is hard to alter by the time they enter middle school."