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Study Finds Obesity Changes Foot Structure and the Way Children Walk

A Study of 200 children aged nine to 12 years revealed that excessive body mass led to structural foot changes. Obese children had feet that were up to 15mm (.6 inches) longer and seven (.3 inches) millimeters wider than feet in normal weight children, rising to 18mm longer and 15mm wider in severely obese children. Another study of nine to 11 year olds found excessive boy mass led to instability when walking, with obese children spending significantly more time balancing on two feet when walking; less time on one foot than normal weight children, and walked at a slower pace.

Feet bear the brunt of body weight in every stride. The foot is highly specialized part of the body, made up of 26 bones, around 19 muscles, ad large number of ligaments, tendons, blood vessels and nerves. The normal foot is designed to absorb the shock of walking and running by under the influence of excess weight and obesity, the delicate, immature nature of children's feet can make them particularly susceptible to deformity an structural abnormalities.

Dr. Stewart Morrison, lecturer, University of East London, who carried out the research at Glasglow Caledonain University, Division of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery said,

"There are several potential causes of the structural changes in children's feet. It may be that the extra weight puts greater pressure on the joint interactions in the foot, leading to disruption in the way the foot aligns and functions; there may be a hormonal association with the excessive mass; excess fatty tissue or increased bone formation."

Mr. Gordon Watt, consultant pediatric podiatrist said,

"From a clinical point of view this research is very important as it flags up to the podiatrist the 'at risk' nature of the foot in the child who is overweight or obese. Clinicians have been aware for some time of particular problems associated with these children but this research provides evidence that obesity and being overweight has an effect, not onlly on the development of the foot, but also on the way the foot and lower limb functions during walking."

(Source: The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, November 24, 2006)
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