Childhood Obesity Increases Heart Disease Risk Before Adulthood
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
New Dutch research has found that two in every three severely obese children already have at least one health problem due to their increased waist size, and by age 12 had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood glucose.
Published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, the study focuses on an issue that has seen little research, despite fast becoming a worldwide epidemic. The findings stem from the Dutch Pediatric Surveillance Unit between 2005 and 2007, including 500 children, of which 307 were classified as severely obese.
Just over half of the 307 children in the study were boys, which tended to be more severely obese at the younger end of the spectrum; girls tended to be more obese at the latter end. Two in three had at least one cardiovascular risk factor and more than half had high blood pressure. Bad cholesterol was also seen in about half the children and one in seven had high fasting blood glucose.
In the study, only one child’s obesity was attributable to medical factors rather than lifestyle choices.
Two-year-old children with a body mass index (BMI) of 20.5 or greater are classified as severely obese; by the age of 18, a BMI of 35 is a sign of severe obesity.
“The prevalence of impaired fasting glucose in [these children] is worrying, considering the increasing prevalence worldwide of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents,” wrote Dr. Joana Kist-van Holthe, Department of Public and Occupational Health, at the University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, lead author of the study. “Likewise, the high prevalence of hypertension and abnormal lipids may lead to cardiovascular disease in young adulthood.”
“Although it was a small study, the findings leave a bad taste in the mouth,” expressed Doireann Maddock, a senior cardiac nurse with the British Heart Foundation. “It’s a huge concern so many obese children were identified as already having at least one risk factor for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high blood glucose and problems with cholesterol levels.”
“However, this is a problem that can be addressed by stopping young people becoming overweight and obese in the first place,” she told BBC News. “Highlighting the importance of healthy eating and physical activity from an early age will help protect the heart health of future generations.”
“Internationally accepted criteria for defining severe obesity and guidelines for early detection and treatment of severe obesity and [underlying ill health] are urgently needed,” the study authors concluded.