Overweight children risk serious diseases found in adults

Being overweight can touch so many aspects of a child’s life. His or her schoolwork can suffer and social lives can be limited. Overweight or obese children have more difficulty sleeping, playing and even breathing.

Lori Wagner, MD, is a Washington University pediatric endocrinologist who specializes in the medical management of overweight and obese children. She is an expert in the cluster of complications experienced by overweight children.


“Excess weight causes major physical complications, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure,” says Wagner, medical director of St. Louis Children’s Hospital Pediatric Obesity Program and an instructor in pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “These are serious diseases that usually occur in adults. When they occur in children, they can cause considerable distress and lead to early heart disease.”

Erin Murphy Zinselmeyer, a pediatric dietitian, works with Wagner in the Pediatric Obesity Program.

“We teach the kids and their family members ways to reduce calories through meal planning, eating at least four to five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and drinking water instead of sugary drinks,” Zinselmeyer says. “We realize that kids are going to eat fast food, so we give them tips on making the best food choices when eating out. Kids set goals at the end of each visit so they have specific changes to work toward for their next visit.”

Zinselmeyer says it’s important for kids to exercise 30-60 minutes a day and limit “screen time,” such as TV, computers or texting, to less than two hours a day.