Update on endocrine aspects of childhood obesity

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Although childhood obesity has leveled off in the last decade, ‘severe obesity’ continues to be on the rise. Various genetic, environmental and hormonal factors contribute to obesity. This article reviews the most current understanding of obesity's multifactorial origin and recent recommendations for its management in childhood and adolescence.

Recent findings

Epigenetics plays a key role in transmitting obesity risk to offspring. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms at genetic loci for adipokines and their receptors are associated with obesity. Gut microbiota is an important regulator of weight status, and Bifidobacterium species improves metabolic status. The incidence of comorbidities including prediabetes and type 2 diabetes has increased. Novel biomarkers such as alpha-hydroxybutyrate and branched-chain amino acids correlate with insulin sensitivity and predict glycemic control in adolescents. Lifestyle modifications and pharmacotherapy can produce small BMI changes. Bariatric surgery induces substantial weight loss and remission of comorbidities.

Summary

Alterations in genetics, epigenetics and microbiota influence childhood obesity. Lifestyle modification remains the mainstay of management and pharmacotherapy with Food and Drug Administration approved medications is recommended only for patients resistant to lifestyle changes and for comorbidities. Bariatric surgery produces sustained weight loss and cardiovascular benefits and is an effective option for adolescents with severe obesity.

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