Obesity in American-Indian children: prevalence, consequences, and prevention.

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BACKGROUND: American Indians of all ages and both sexes have a high prevalence of obesity. The health risks associated with obesity are numerous and include Type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and respiratory problems. Obesity has become a major health problem in American Indians only in the past few generations and it is believed to be associated with the relative abundance of high-fat, high-calorie foods and the rapid change from active to sedentary lifestyles.

METHODS: The authors reviewed selected literature on prevalence of obesity in American-Indian children, and health consequences of obesity.

RESULTS: Obesity is now one of the most serious public health problems facing American-Indian children, and it has grave implications for the immediate and long-term health of American-Indian youth. Unless this pattern is reversed, American-Indian populations will be burdened by an increased incidence of chronic diseases. Intervention studies are urgently needed in American-Indian communities to develop and test effective strategies for obesity prevention and treatment.

CONCLUSIONS: To be effective, educational and environmental interventions must be developed with full participation of the American-Indian communities.