Obese Kids Are Expensive, Costing $19K in Lifetime Medical Bills

Being a parent of an obese child is worrisome enough, but it’s expensive, too. Over a lifetime, the medical costs for someone who was obese as a child amounts to $19,000 compared with $12,900 per person for someone who was of normal weight as a kid, according to a new study published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

According to the research, nearly one-fifth of children ages 6 to 19 are obese — defined by the Centers for Disease Control as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. And the effects of obesity continue into adulthood. The study also noted that more than three-quarters of obese teens remain that way as adults and two-thirds of normal-weight children eventually become obese.

What could possibly account for the $19,000 in medical bills? For one thing, obese kids are more likely to visit the doctor. Yahoo Shine could not reach the study authors for comment, but, according to the CDC, obesity causes all sorts of health problems ranging from high blood pressure and cholesterol to joint and breathing problems (sleep apnea and asthma). And kids with such issues are likely to be on medication, another factor in the high cost. Plus, once obese kids grow up, they incur costs in lost productivity and missed work due to such health problems — those costs are in addition to the $19,000.

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Also, surprising: When that $19,000 figure is multiplied by the number of all obese 10-year-olds in the United States, the lifetime medical cost rises to a mind-boggling $14 billion. "For the same reasons we don't let kids drink or smoke and force them to go to school, we should also do our best to keep them at a healthy weight," lead author Eric Andrew Finkelstein, PhD, M.H.A., said in the study's press release. "While the cost estimates are significant, the motivation to prevent childhood obesity should be there regardless of the financial implications."

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The best way to prevent childhood obesity, says Los Angeles-based registered dietitian Patricia Bannan, M.S., R.D., author of "Eat Right When Time Is Tight," is to get moving. "Kids often develop bad habits at an early age from mimicking their parents' behavior," Bannan tells Yahoo Shine. "So if they see inactive parents, they're less likely to be active themselves." It's true: A recent study published in Pediatrics found that while it's tough for parents to find the time to exercise (work, running a household, and um, exhaustion) active mothers tend to have active children.

Also, parents can watch their own weight by making healthy dinners mandatory. According to research published in the Journal of Pediatrics, kids with overweight or obese parents are at a higher risk for becoming obese, due, in part, to unhealthy diets. Bannan's suggestions: Add a variety of color to your meals (red bell pepper, green spinach, yellow squash) to boost vitamin and antioxidant intake. And stock your fridge with healthy snacks such as nuts (almonds, pistachios, walnuts), which contain satiating healthy fat and protein.

Wondering if you have an obese kid? Use this BMI calculator.

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