Chronic conditions don't worsen for low weight babies when they hit… (Getty Images )
Children who are born at a very low birth weight typically have more chronic health problems than normal birth weight children. While those issues don't appear to get worse as they become teenagers, a study finds, they may be at higher risk for obesity.
The study, released Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., focused on 181 extremely low birth weight children (whose weight at birth was less than 2.2 pounds on average) and 115 normal birth weight children born between 1992 and 1995. Between age 8 and 14 the low birth weight children in general didn't experience a change in rates of their chronic conditions, remaining at about 75%. At age 14 their rates exceeded those of normal birth weight kids: 74% compared with 47%.
The average number of chronic conditions per child fell, however. Functional limitations, for example, went from 56% to 46%.
Among normal birth weight children, overall rates and numbers of chronic conditions, functional limitations and special healthcare needs did not change from age 8 to 14.
Rates of asthma that required medication stayed steady at 23% among low birth weight kids from age 8 to 14. But asthma numbers did climb among normal birth weight kids during that time, from 8% to 17%.
Obesity rates grew among low birth weight children, from 12% at age 8 to 19% at age 14. Obesity numbers remained the same for normal birth weight children, and by age 14 there were no significant differences between the two groups.
In the study the authors wrote that the obesity rates in both groups reflect obesity rates around the country. The steep rise in weight among low birth weight kids, they said, may prove an added risk in adulthood.
Interventions for low birth weight children with asthma or obesity might be in order, they added, such as smoking prevention and motivation to exercise.