Lead author Corinna Koebnick of Kaiser Permanente Southern California and colleagues used data based on information in the electronic health records of more than 510,000 children ages 10-19, from 2007 through 2009, who were members of Kaiser Permanente Southern California.
"Although gallstones are relatively common in obese adults, gallstones in children and adolescents have been historically rare," Koebnick said in a statement. "These findings add to an alarming trend -- youth who are obese or extremely obese are more likely to have diseases we normally think of as adult conditions."
Gallstone symptoms of gallstones include recurrent abdominal pain and nausea, although many people with gallstones have no symptoms. Gallstones can block the passage of bile into the intestine, which in turn can cause severe damage or infection in the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas and, if left untreated, the condition can be fatal, Koebnick said.
The study, published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition, found children and adolescents who were overweight were twice as likely to have gallstone disease, compared to children and adolescents who had a normal body mass index.
Those who were moderately obese were four times as likely to have gallstones and those who were extremely obese were six times as likely to have gallstones, the study said.