Dec. 17 (UPI) -- With so many American children meeting the criteria for obesity, doctors are concerned about a range of potential health consequences.
Now, the results of a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism suggest that a child's weight may impact how their healthcare professionals interpret routine blood tests.
The findings could have serious implications for parents of children with a chronic illness, researchers say.
"As clinical decisions are often guided by normative ranges based on a large healthy population, understanding how and which routine blood tests are affected by obesity is important to correctly interpret blood test results," study co-author Victoria Higgins, a doctor and researcher at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto, said in a statement.
As many as one in five school age children in the United States meet the criteria for obesity, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and this number has generally been on the rise since the early 1970s. As in adults, body mass index, or BMI, is used to determine whether children are overweight or obese.
However, in young people, age and size are also factors.
Higgins and her team studied over 1,300 otherwise healthy children and teens from the greater Toronto area and found that 24 routine blood tests were affected in those who were obese. The differences were seen on liver function tests, cholesterol tests and blood-sugar panels.
In general, obese children were found to have higher cholesterol levels and increased blood sugar measurements -- among other findings -- than children of normal weight.
"We performed the first comprehensive analysis of the effect of obesity on routine blood tests in a large community population of children and found that almost 70 percent of the blood tests studied were affected," Higgins said.
Although it is still not clear what effect being obese in childhood has on the development of chronic diseases later in life, such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease, the authors said doctors should be aware of these findings when interpreting blood tests in children.
"We hope our study results will assist pediatricians and family physicians to better assess children and adolescents with different degrees of overweight or obesity," Higgins said.