Testing Now Available to Find Answers for Childhood Obesity

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Helping your children stay healthy and self-confident can be challenging. With the ease of the drive-through versus homemade meals or the quick fix of an iPad instead of playing outside, too many unhealthy decisions can add up to have a lasting impact.

AdventHealth for Children believes in the importance of talking to kids about healthy eating choices, better sleep habits and the benefits of staying active to care for their whole-person health.

“Due to its increasing prevalence and the associated comorbidities, childhood obesity has become a major health problem worldwide,” describes Konda Reddy, MD, Medical Director of Pediatric Diabetes and Endocrinology, adding, “Although nutrition and energy imbalance is the major cause for abnormal weight gain, several genes/chromosomal regions are associated with energy metabolism.”

Sometimes a child and their family can be making all the best lifestyle choices and still struggle to reach a healthy weight. Now, with a quick and easy saliva swab to complete a genetic obesity test, parents can help find answers for their children who are living with obesity.

“Early diagnosis of an obesity syndrome is important, as this would result in the delivery of accurate genetic counseling for parents,” Dr. Reddy explains.

Who Is Eligible?

Patients at AdventHealth for Children who meet the following criteria could be eligible for this new genetic obesity testing at no additional cost (after regular office visit co-pay):

  • 2–18 years of age, BMI >97th percentile
  • >19 years of age, BMI >40, and a history of childhood obesity before age 10
  • If your child has family members who were previously tested, that may also make them eligible for testing

“This quick and painless genetic test conducted by PreventionGenetics is an incredibly helpful way for frustrated parents and their children to get answers,” says Pediatric Endocrinologist, Dr. Krystal Irizarry, MD, adding, “We are now one of just two practices in Florida who can offer this testing — the other being in Miami.”

After the patient completes the test, they will have results back in about three weeks.

Detection and Treatment

“Rare genetic variants can be the cause of early onset, severe obesity, but if you don’t know your child has such a disorder, helping them reach a healthy weight may feel impossible,” says Dr. Irizarry. The following disorders that the test looks for can lead to dysfunction within a key pathway that’s responsible for regulating hunger:

  • Alström Syndrome
  • Bardet-Biedl Syndrome (BBS)
  • Leptin Receptor (LEPR) deficiency
  • POMC deficiency

Insatiable hunger and early-onset obesity (typically between ages two and five) are the most common symptoms of these disorders. While a diagnosis for Alström Syndrome and BBS may be found without genetic testing, this new test is crucial in detecting LEPR and POMC deficiencies. This swab test also helps physicians to differentiate between nutritional obesity —from environmental or behavioral factors — and syndromic obesity diagnoses, from underlying genetic causes (like insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, sleep apnea, fatty liver). Knowing this difference helps determine the best way to care for your child, whether that means family-based behavioral interventions, exercise, school-based interventions, or in some cases medication.

If your child is diagnosed with a genetic obesity disorder, the team at our Pediatric Diabetes and Endocrinology center can schedule genetic counseling sessions for the entire family to discuss any possible inheritance patterns or risks for other family members. They will also be able to test other family members, if needed, and link the genetic findings to the patient’s symptoms for a more definitive diagnosis.

“Once we have a diagnosis of genetic or syndrome obesity, we can begin screening for other associated comorbidities and implement more intensive lifestyle recommendations to provide the family with as many resources as possible to help their child,” says Dr. Irizarry.

If this test could be helpful for your family, please contact our Pediatric Diabetes and Endocrinology Center at Call407-896-2901. For more information on programs and treatments available through AdventHealth for Children, click here.

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