(HealthDay News) – Severely obese is a newly defined class of risk which characterizes about 5% of U.S. children and teens, according to an American Heart Association (AHA) scientific statement published online Sept. 9 in Circulation.

Aaron S. Kelly, PhD, co-chair of the AHA’s Atherosclerosis, Hypertension, and Obesity in the Young Committee, and colleagues reviewed the current literature to define obese children >2 years as severely obese if they either have a body mass index (BMI) that’s ≥20% higher than the 95th percentile for their gender and age or a BMI score of ≥35kg/m².

The purpose of the statement is to provide justification and standardization of the definition of severe obesity in children and adolescents; raise awareness of this serious and growing problem with regard to the epidemiology, trends, associated health risks (immediate and long-term), and shortcomings of currently available treatment options; and lastly, highlight areas in need of future research.

“Innovative behavior-based treatment, minimally invasive procedures, and medications currently under development all need to be evaluated for their efficacy and safety in this group of patients with high medical and psychosocial risks,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and medical technology industries.

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